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Plan Threatens Proposed Downstate Casinos

Casino Queen
Paul Sableman (pasa47) via Flickr

A group of Illinois lawmakers considered two different plans to expand gambling Wednesday. One tracks other recent proposals to add five casinos across Illinois; the other focuses on Chicago.

Every expansion of gambling in Illinois has required a delicate balance of competing geographic and businesses interests.

That's why plans in recent years have called for slot machines at horse racetracks, and five new casinos: in Chicago, the south suburbs, Lake County, Rockford, and Danville.

A new competing proposal would cut that to just one additional casino — in the city of Chicago, and owned by state government.

Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer says potential gamblers from his region are unlikely to make the trek north.

"By placing a casino in Danville, you will be able to attract that new audience," Eisenhauer says. "That's new money coming in, not only to the city of Danville, but — more importantly from your perspective — to the state of Illinois."

The horse racing industry also raised concerns that Fairmount Park, in Collinsville, would be denied the opportunity to add slot machines. They say that would be a major blow to the industry Downstate. But there's also concern machines there would eat into business at the Casino Queen in East St. Louis.

Many lawmakers are desperate for the new revenue the casinos are expected to provide, and they'll continue to weigh their options.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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