Joliet officials again plan to fight gambling expansion
By Bob Okon email@example.com June 1, 2012 12:38PM
Harrah’s Casino in Joliet
Updated: July 6, 2012 10:43AM
JOLIET — It’s time again for Joliet officials to do what they can to try to stop a gambling expansion bill that would bring new competition to the city’s casinos.
The state Legislature late Thursday passed a bill that expands gambling in the same ways as legislation that was passed last year but blocked by Gov. Pat Quinn. The governor again appears ready to veto the bill.
“We’re going to ask him to veto it again,” Joliet Mayor Thomas Giarrante said Friday. “From what I understand, there are not enough votes to overturn the veto.”
The bill passed in the state Senate by a vote of 30-26 with one “yes” vote already in doubt. Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, said afterward that she planned to vote “no” but another senator flipped her voting switch to “yes” while she was away from her seat.
“The good news is we kept the ‘yes’ votes under 36,” said state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, noting that 36 votes would be needed in the Senate to override a veto by the governor. “I hope the governor would veto it, because as is stands now it would oversaturate the Chicago market.”
Joliet officials have said that they could accept casinos in Chicago and three other locations included in the bill. But they oppose a south suburban casino and slot machines at horse race tracks because of the potential impact on business in Joliet.
The city’s two casinos — Harrah’s Joliet and Hollywood Joliet — already are losing business to a new casino that opened in Des Plaines last summer. The casino taxes that go to the city of Joliet have declined as well.
The gambling expansion bill passed the Legislature in large part because it spreads around gambling money, even if it may spread it more thinly.
Other towns that would get casinos are Rockford and Danville. A casino also would open in Lake County.
The slot machines at horse race tracks are seen as a way to support not only the racing business but horse breeders.
House Republican Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said he voted for the gaming bill because of a long-standing commitment to do what he could to support the horse-racing business.
“I think the horse-racing industry is about on life support,” Cross said. “I think we have to do what we can to support it.”
The bill passed through the House by a vote of 69-47, which would be two short of the 71 needed to override a veto in that chamber.