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Emanuel to ‘work relentlessly’ to pass Chicago casino bill

Gov. PQuinn speaks medioutside Longfellow Elementary School Oak Park after his office announced his vecasino bill Tuesday August 28 2012.

Gov. Pat Quinn speaks to the media outside the Longfellow Elementary School in Oak Park after his office announced his veto of the casino bill Tuesday, August 28, 2012. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: September 30, 2012 6:11AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel reacted to Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of a sweeping gambling expansion plan by vowing Tuesday to “work relentlessly” to at last win permission for a potentially lucrative new casino to Chicago.

“I spoke with the governor this morning and we agreed, it cannot take another 20 years of discussion to draft and pass a bill that will be signed into law,” Emanuel said in a statement. “I will continue to work relentlessly with all parties to pass a bill that will allow a Chicago casino to be built and implemented responsibly.”

The mayor did not have a news conference scheduled Tuesday but his office quickly answered Quinn’s veto with a statement claiming the state is losing “$20 million a month and countless jobs” to Indiana casinos.

Quinn, who called Emanuel to discuss the veto on Tuesday morning, continued to leave open the possibility that he would be supportive of some sort of gambling expansion.

The governor said he would be “shocked” if Emanuel were part of efforts to override the veto, which the bill’s proponents in the General Assembly have promised to attempt.

“I think his attitude was that we need to sit down and work out a better bill,” Quinn said, characterizing his talk with Emanuel as “a very pleasant conversation” devoid of the mayor’s trademark foul language.

Quinn said Emanuel told him he shared his desire to ensure that new gambling venues are adequately regulated and that revenues from the program go toward funding education.

The governor’s veto, first reported by the Sun-Times, was widely anticipated ever since legislators approved putting casinos in Chicago as well as four other locations across the state. The bill also would add slot machines at racetracks.

In issuing the veto, the governor sent a letter to legislators alleging that the proposal “includes loopholes for mobsters.”

At a news conference in Oak Park on Tuesday morning, Quinn also repeated that he would not sign any bill that does not ban campaign donations from gambling interests.

A chief sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), said proponents will attempt to override the governor’s veto later this year. “The governor’s action today is disappointing but predictable,” he said.

Lang said he was confident the override effort would succeed, but Quinn responded: “That veto will be sustained. I don’t have any doubt about it.”

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) welcomed Quinn’s veto and doubted there is any likelihood gambling-expansion supporters can mount an override effort, particularly in the Senate.

In late May, state Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) was the 30th Senate vote in support of the bill, giving it the bare majority it needed to pass. Collins later said her vote was cast in error and that she is against the measure. Thirty-six Senate votes are necessary to override Quinn’s veto.

“Assuming there were maybe 29 for it, that’s a tall order to get another seven people on board,” Radogno told the Chicago Sun-Times at the Republican National Convention in Florida.

Lang said proponents offered Quinn the chance to make changes to their proposal before legislators approved it.

“We said to him, ‘If you want changes, tell us what they are and we will make them,’” Lang recalled. “One can only conclude he is not interested in saving and creating 90,000 jobs; he is not interested in generating the $1.2 billion in old bills the state owes to its vendors; he is not interested in stemming the tide of people who get in their cars every day to go to Indiana for gaming.”

Quinn, though, said he made it clear what regulatory measures he wanted in the bill.

“I told them that to their face,” he said of the ban on political contributions. “They just don’t want to do it.”

The governor also used the occasion Tuesday to remind legislators of the state’s huge — and unsolved — pending funding crisis. “Even a casino on every street corner cannot repair the state’s $83 billion unfunded pension liability,” Quinn wrote in the veto letter.

Emanuel has pledged to use revenues from a Chicago casino for infrastructure projects in general and school construction in particular—not to erase a projected $369 million shortfall in 2013.

“That would have been a revenue source for us, but we weren’t baking it into our financial plans, either,” said Lois Scott, the mayor’s chief financial officer.

Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe, who praised Quinn and called for scaling back the expansion plan, suggested that more casinos might not offer as rich a payday as some proponents hope.

“Quite truthfully, Illinois is not Las Vegas, and Las Vegas is not doing well,” he said.

Contributing: Dave McKinney

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