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Editorial: A better gaming bill

Illinois Gov. PQuinn delivers his State Budget address joint sessiGeneral Assembly House chambers Illinois State Capitol Wednesday March 6 2013

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn delivers his State of the Budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly in the House chambers at the Illinois State Capitol Wednesday, March 6, 2013, in Springfield Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

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Updated: June 3, 2013 3:18PM

Illinois is closing in on a bill to expand casino gambling in a well-regulated way that could generate millions of dollars for cash-starved governments. For Chicago, which finally would get a casino of its own, that’s welcome news.

On Wednesday, the state Senate passed a bill that included a number of safeguards and conditions sought by Gov. Pat Quinn, who vetoed two previous measures, most recently last August when he said that bill didn’t have strong enough regulatory oversight. This latest bill will be subject to continued negotiation as it passes through the House, but there’s hope the final result will be something all the players in Springfield can live with.

It’s important the Legislature not take its eye off its most pressing priority — pension reform — to deal with gaming expansion. But that said, the House should do what it takes to get this gambling bill done, too.

The improvements in this bill include:

† Unworkable deadlines that would have made it too difficult for the Illinois Gaming Board to do its oversight job adequately have been eliminated.

† Internet gambling, which was not fully vetted, has been dropped from the bill.

† Ethics measures, including a ban on campaign contributions by casino operators, have been strengthened.

† A provision that new revenues from a Chicago casino be dedicated to school construction and modernization has been added.

The bill also would create a separate inspector general for the Chicago casino. Our concern in this regard, as the legislation moves forward, is that the new inspector general position not co-op the powers of the existing — and highly vigilant — Gaming Board.

As did the earlier bills, this one would provide for casinos in Chicago, the south suburbs, Lake County, Rockford and Danville; slot machines at racetracks; and a Chicago option of allotting some of its 4,000 machines to O’Hare and Midway airports.

Senate sponsor Terry Link (D-Waukegan) predicts the gambling expansion will eventually generate $268.9 million annually for the state. Much of that money now goes to neighboring states. We need it here.

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