SPRINGFIELD — Supporters of the gambling expansion legislation hope large crowds at the 158th Illinois State Fair will convince Gov. Pat Quinn to sign the proposal.

By Benjamin Yount

SPRINGFIELD — Supporters of the gambling expansion legislation hope large crowds at the 158th Illinois State Fair will convince Gov. Pat Quinn to sign the proposal.

The measure would create six new casinos and allow slot machines at horse-racing tracks statewide, including the racetrack at the state fairgrounds here.

Legislative leaders have not sent the casino plan to the governor, who renewed his opposition Tuesday. The governor and Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe have said the proposal lacks oversight of new casinos. Quinn also has called the legislation “top heavy,” but he has not elaborated further on his opposition.

“It’s great for gamblers, and for gambling interests,” said Quinn. “But it’s not, in my opinion, strong enough when it comes to protecting the public.”

Tony Somone, executive director of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association, which represents and lobbies for Illinois’ horse racing industry, said that with thousands of visitors and hundreds of horsemen walking the fairgrounds, he may never have a better chance to convince the governor.

“What you have here at the state fairgrounds is the bread and butter of the horse racing industry,” Somone added.

Somone said the state fair shows the reach of horse racing’s impact on the economy.

“You have all of these ancillary jobs that we’ve been talking about for years,” Somone said. Those jobs range from blacksmiths to hired hands who shovel feed and manure.

State Rep Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, who represents the area around the fairgrounds, said that in addition to the jobs, he wants Quinn to see “how important, with these (big) crowds, that the Illinois State Fair is.”

Poe added that half of the money generated by any new gambling at the fairgrounds would go toward maintaining the taxpayer-funded fairgrounds. He specifically referred to the missing shingles on the buildings as an example of the needed repairs and upkeep to the fairgrounds.

State Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, who was at the fair Tuesday, said Quinn may need to support bringing slot machines to fairgrounds.

“There’s a unique opportunity for tourism in Chicago. And if he doesn’t pass a part of it down here with the state fair, chances are he’s not going to have the southern Republican votes to pass” the one casino in Chicago, said Brauer.

But politics aside, some folks at the fair support slots. Leon Mason drove to Springfield from his home in Farmer City to bet on Tuesday’s harness races. He said betting on the ponies is no different than betting on slots.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Mason said from his seat in the grandstand. “All they’d have to do, in my estimation, would be to up the purses and the horses would be for it.”

Quinn, and his fellow Democrats, will hold their party’s annual rally Wednesday at the state fair.

A coalition of horsemen, racing supporters, agricultural groups and labor unions say they will try to make their presence known on the fairgrounds to change Quinn’s mind.

Join the Conversation


  1. Ask the hard questions about gambling

    Instead of seeing dollar signs in their eyes, the governmental bodies as well as citizens should question the whole idea.

    While the L-o-t-t-e-r-y is aimed at the poor who can least afford it [and its horrible odds] and who may play it in substitution for necessities or even with money from welfare freed up, the other 'classes' cannot afford the lottery or c-a-s-i-n-o gambling.

    The government, schools and churches should be educating people about the problems caused by gambling or at least how the odds are against them.

    Talk about balancing the budget on the backs of the poor !


  2. Hard questions about gambling

    While every point you make is valid, unless every state gets rid of gambling, the people who want to gamble will. So, with that in mind, why give the revenue to Indiana or Wisconsin? If you wonder how much revenue is gained, just look in the parking lots where the Indiana tour busses pick up the Illinois people to take them out  of state to gamble.  

  3. Gambling

    I agree about the other states.

    I meant to address your comment.  While reducing the spots in Illinois would limit Illinois gambling somewhat—you have to make additional efforts the farther away the spots are—the real effort should be made by government, schools and churches to educate people about the poor odds, responsibility to their family and financial planning.  Government should not be encouraging gambling as they are doing now and then turning around and complaining about poverty and financial inequality while boosting welfare payments which are fungible for more gambling.

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