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Elgin council opposes state gaming expansion bill

Updated: July 14, 2011 1:37PM

The Elgin City Council took a stand tonight against pending state legislation to expand gaming in Illinois.

By a unanimous vote, council members implored Gov. Pat Quinn to veto Senate Bill 744, which the State Senate has failed to move to his desk. The Senate’s tactic disallows Quinn from causing a “pocket veto,” a process by which if he does not take action on a measure waiting for his signature, after 60 days it is effectively killed.

Among its provisions, the bill would allow casinos to be built in Chicago, Rockford, Danville, Park City and the south suburbs and permit slot machines at horse-racing tracks.

The Elgin council’s resolution calls for the General Assembly to “introduce new gaming legislation with protections that will require such new gaming licenses to be issued in depressed economic areas of the state and in markets that are not adequately being served by an existing riverboat casino.”

It also opposes further gambling at horse-racing tracks, calling the introduction of slot machines at them at odds with the “overarching purpose of the Riverboat Gambling Act — to enhance the economically depressed regions of the State — but rather confers a substantial benefit on a discrete industry.” Elgin’s declaration also states that “Illinois cities and regions with riverboat casinos should not be subject to cannibalization of their markets by racetracks that have been long afforded the privilege of wagering by the State.”

However, “the City of Elgin is not opposed to the proposed gaming expansion within the city of Chicago, recognizing Chicago’s stature as a first level, ‘world’ city, and that the addition of gaming to Chicago’s diverse, international economy will enhance that city’s appeal in the global marketplace,” the document states.

Elgin’s resolution came about after Mayor Dave Kaptain and mayors from other Illinois towns that have riverboat casinos met with Quinn July 1 at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.

Earlier this week, Kaptain said the consensus among those mayors was to support a Chicago casino but to oppose gaming machines at racetracks. Kaptain said he was left with the impression that Quinn honestly is trying to get the input of those who would be impacted by the gaming expansion.

Elgin primarily uses its share of Grand Victoria Casino money to fund capital projects and assist local nonprofits.

At the city council’s retreat in June, Chief Financial Officer Colleen Lavery said that the casino’s revenues — which have been declining steadily during the recession — were expected to bring Elgin $14.3 million this year, in part because another casino was set to open in Des Plaines in November.

Now that the new casino not far from O’Hare International Airport will open earlier — on Monday — Lavery is anticipating an additional $935,000 loss of anticipated revenue to the city in 2011 and no more than $12.54 million coming in for each of the following four years.

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