Time running out to introduce a bill that brings a casino to Roc - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Time running out to introduce a bill that brings a casino to Rockford

ROCKFORD (WREX) - Timing is already stacking the odds against lawmakers who are pushing to expand gambling in Illinois. They're set to introduce a bill that would allow Rockford and few other cities to build casinos. But if lawmakers want to see something happen this year, they need to get everything passed in less than 30 days. 

"There's a loose agreement in place with what the parameters are going to be, that they want to have five casinos including Chicago and Rockford and addressing the concerns from the current and race tracks that they get help as well," says Sen. Dave Syverson. 

It's a very similar proposal to what was vetoed in 2013 by then-Gov. Pat Quinn. He had been against expanding gambling particularly for race tracks. Current Gov. Bruce Rauner says he dislikes gambling but sees it as an opportunity to generate jobs and tax dollars, something Chicago in particular needs. 

"Chicago is in a financial position right now where they are pretty much at the cap of what they can borrow," Syverson says. 

Chicago's mayor wants a casino to fund the city's pensions. But one casino industry expert testified gaming can actually bring instability to city finances instead of growth. Joseph Weinert says a prime example would be Atlantic City, which built a casino called Revel with taxpayer help just 2 years ago and it's already bankrupt. 

"It was built at a cost of $2.4 billion. It was aided by state subsidies. It opened in April 2012 and closed just 29 months later," says Weinert of Spectrum Gaming Group. 

The closing meant 2,500 jobs were lost but also put the state in worse financial shape. 

"This has also exacerbated the funding for the 18 State of New Jersey programs that rely on gaming taxes," Weinert says. 

Illinois' Senate is expected to file a bill possibly this week for a new casino.

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