Bloomberg News

O’Hare May Get Slots as Illinois Senate Passes Gambling Measure

June 01, 2011

June 1 (Bloomberg) -- Travelers at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports would be able to play the slots during layovers under a bill the Illinois Senate sent to Governor Pat Quinn that also would allow a casino in the city.

The measure won final approval yesterday 30 to 27. Quinn, a Democrat and critic of gambling’s spread, has stopped short of threatening a veto of the bill, which supporters say would generate $1.5 billion in licensing fees for the state.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, lobbied for the measure creating the city’s first casino and authorizing similar gambling houses in Rockford, Danville and in two Chicago suburbs. Slot machines would also be allowed at horse tracks and at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

“It’s going to be an economic boon for the state of Illinois,” said Democratic Senator Terry Link, the bill’s chief sponsor. “We need it.”

Emanuel said the vote brought Chicago “one step closer to a significant victory for job creation and economic growth.” Emanuel, in a statement released from his office, said the casino will create 7,000 to 10,000 jobs in the city.

At least a dozen states, including Texas, Massachusetts and Minnesota, are considering proposals to expand casinos, lotteries and other forms of gambling, said Sujit CanagaRetna, a senior fiscal analyst for the Council of State Governments.

Hunting Money

“The overall trend is one of expansion in gambling,” CanagaRetna said in a telephone interview. “This is perceived as a fairly effective way to generate this additional revenue.”

During the 2011 and 2012 fiscal year, 23 states have enacted or considered proposals to expand gambling, according to the National Council of State Legislatures.

Some opponents of the Illinois bill said the state does not need more gambling.

“We are basically shaking down the citizens for every nickel they’ve got, providing them the false hope to go out and win the big bucks,” said Senator Tim Bivins, a Republican from Dixon.

Illinois has nine casinos, operated by Ameristar Casinos Inc., Bally Technologies Inc., Boyd Gaming Corp., Caesars Entertainment Corp., International Game Technology, Penn National Gaming, Shuffle Master Inc. and WMS Industries Inc.

Gambling equipment manufacturers stand to benefit from the bill, Joseph Greff, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a research note today, while Penn National would be harmed. The company gets about 12 percent of its pretax earnings in Illinois, he said.

“Illinois is always the state that can do the most amazingly crazy things in a blink of an eye,” William J. Clifford, Penn National’s chief financial officer, told investors in a webcast conference last week.

--With assistance from Mark Niquette in Columbus and Beth Jinks in New York. Editors: Stephen Merelman, Ted Bunker

To contact the reporter on this story: Timothy Jones in Chicago at tjones58@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net


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