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Lawmaker Restarts Gambling Expansion Talks


A Chicago-area legislator is trying to re-start negotiations over a big expansion of gambling.

Gambling was a big issue earlier this year, but negotiations fell apart in May, at the end of the spring legislative session. Since then, attention has moved to other issues, like the state's underfunded pension systems, according to  Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, and nothing has happened on gaming expansion.

So he held a hearing in which people with an interest in gambling could say where they stand. He acknowledges that little has changed since the spring.

"There was nothing new, in terms of the problems, but the concerns are still there. And one that was pointed out pretty clearly is the regulatory authority of the Illinois Gaming Board versus the Chicago -- the new authority created," Rita said.

On the table are five new casinos -- in Chicago and its north and south suburbs, in Rockford, and in Danville. The plan would also allow slot machines at horse racetracks.

Bob Molaro, a lobbyist and former state representative, says the expansion would both create jobs and give the state badly needed tax revenue. He says Illinois is falling behind other states.

"Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, (and) Florida have slots at their racetracks."

Illinois lawmakers, however, have heard all this before.

Rita says he'll consider the testimony with an ear toward crafting a new compromise in the coming weeks.