The measure would create six new casinos and allow slot machines at
horse-racing tracks statewide, including the racetrack at the state
fairgrounds in Springfield.
Legislative leaders have not sent the
casino plan to the governor, who renewed his opposition Tuesday. The
governor and Aaron Jaffe, Illinois Gaming Board chairman, have said
the proposal lacks oversight of new casinos. Quinn also has called
the legislation "top-heavy," but he has not elaborated further on
"It's great for gamblers and for gambling interests," said Quinn.
"But it's not, in my opinion, strong enough when it comes to
protecting the public."
Tony Somone, executive director of the Illinois Harness
Horsemen's Association, which represents and lobbies for Illinois'
horse-racing industry, said that with thousands of visitors and
hundreds of horsemen walking the fairgrounds, he may never have a
better chance to convince the governor.
"What you have here at the state fairgrounds is the bread and
butter of the horse-racing industry," Somone added.
He said the state fair shows the reach of horse-racing's impact
on the economy.
"You have all of these ancillary jobs that we've been talking
about for years," Somone said. Those jobs range from blacksmiths to
hired hands who shovel feed and manure.
State Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, who represents the area
around the fairgrounds, said that in addition to the jobs, he wants
Quinn to see "how important, with these (big) crowds, that the
Illinois State Fair is."
Poe added that half of the money generated by any new gambling at
the fairgrounds would go toward maintaining the taxpayer-funded
fairgrounds. He specifically referred to the missing shingles on the
buildings as an example of the needed repairs and upkeep to the
[to top of second column]
State Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, who was at the fair
Tuesday, said Quinn may need to support bringing slot machines to
"There's a unique opportunity for tourism in Chicago. And if he
doesn't pass a part of it down here with the state fair, chances are
he's not going to have the southern Republican votes to pass" the
one casino in Chicago, said Brauer.
But politics aside, some folks at the fair support slots. Leon
Mason drove to Springfield from his home in Farmer City to bet on
Tuesday's harness races. He said betting on the ponies is no
different than betting on slots.
"I think it's wonderful," Mason said from his seat in the
Grandstand. "All they'd have to do, in my estimation, would be to up
the purses and the horses would be for it."
Quinn and his fellow Democrats will have their party's annual
rally at the state fair on Wednesday.
A coalition of horsemen, racing supporters, agricultural groups
and labor unions say they will try to make their presence known on
the fairgrounds to change Quinn's mind.
Statehouse News; By BENJAMIN YOUNT]