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Feud over? Rahm seeks ‘common ground’ with Quinn on gambling

Mayor Rahm Emanuel visits Ernst   Young 155 N. Wacker Dr. announces thErnst   Young would be adding

Mayor Rahm Emanuel visits Ernst & Young 155 N. Wacker Dr. and announces that Ernst & Young would be adding 500 new jobs in Chicago by mid-2012 October 18, 2011 I Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 20, 2011 8:49AM

After months of political feuding with Gov. Pat Quinn over casino gambling, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday changed his tune, saying he hoped to find “common ground” that would pave the way for a Chicago casino and a bonanza of local revenues.

One day after Quinn drew the line at five new casinos and ruled out slot machines at racetracks, O’Hare and Midway Airports and the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Emanuel said he had a “good conversation” with the governor and came away encouraged. He said a revised gambling bill could be introduced by Friday.

“I’ve never said, ‘My way or the highway.’ That’s not how I do my things,” Emanuel told reporters.

“He’s laid out a couple of positions as it relates to expansion. He’s laid out a position as it relates to oversight, which I’m for. Now that he’s laid out some positions, you’ll see the proponents down in the Legislature lay out their reforms to the original bill and that’s how you find common ground.”

Does that mean Emanuel is okay with the governor’s plan to shift oversight over a Chicago casino — and the awarding of the jackpot of casino contracts — to the Illinois Gaming Board, instead of a Chicago Casino Development Authority comprised of mayoral appointees?

Not necessarily.

“Oversight and the potential of economic growth go hand-in-hand. You’re gonna see a lot of agreement as it relates to oversight as the goal,” the mayor said, dancing around the question.

“There’s already [oversight] in the original bill. … Let’s be honest. There are 10 casinos. They’re all operating and they’re operating with oversight and I expect that to happen for Chicago.”

Now that Quinn has put his cards on the table, Emanuel said he expects Senate President John Cullerton to “put a revision out” on Friday. The mayor’s conciliatory tone toward Quinn was a marked contrast to the impatience he showed with the governor all summer.

“In my view, that means we’re moving forward. There’ll be a lot of commonality I assume. And we can then work off a common set of goals to make progress,” he said.

Quinn’s decision to snub the horse racing industry after intense lobbying for slot machines at the tracks could cause the house of cards to collapse, especially considering the delicate nature of the negotiations and the close vote in both houses.

State Sen. Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills), the bill’s chief Senate sponsor, has said that the retooled legislation will grant slot machines to Illinois’ seven racetracks over the governor’s objections.

Asked Tuesday whether Quinn needs to change his mind about slot machines at racetracks, Emanuel refused to fall into the trap of criticizing Quinn.

“No. I’m not gonna do [that]. First of all, that’s not how you make progress,” the mayor said.

“I’ve always believed this when I was serving as a congressman, senior adviser to the president or as chief of staff and also even just working as mayor with the City Council. Look for where there is common ground so we can make progress.”

All through the summer, Emanuel and Quinn engaged in a public war of words over the massive expansion of casino gambling that would give Chicago a $150 million-a-year jackpot.

It started when Emanuel tried to light a fire under Quinn to sign the bill by ticking off the wish lists of schools, roads and CTA stations he hoped to build with casino cash.

The mayor also talked about the other side of the equation: the steady “withdrawal” of state and federal funding that has created the infrastructure crisis.

The pressure tactic didn’t work with Quinn, who accused the mayor of “putting the cart before the horse” and spending casino cash he doesn’t have. The governor then held his ground by outlining parameters so stringent, they could end up killing the bill altogether.

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