Thursday, October 20, 2011

Political brawl over gambling has no end in sight, and maybe that’s good

I must confess to being interested in seeing what, if anything will happen Friday at the Statehouse in Springfield.
QUINN: A pair of twos?

For that is the day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has implied we will see a revised bill for the expansion of gambling across Illinois.

FOR THERE NOW has to be a revised bill, and the process must start all over again. Unless we want to believe that Gov. Pat Quinn is bluffing big time, and the political powers-that-be decide they want to call him on his bluff – thinking he has nothing more than the political equivalent of a pair of twos in his hand.

For Quinn managed to shake up the political debate over gambling expansion earlier this week when he came out and said he will veto the bill that was approved during the spring months by the General Assembly to add five new casinos – along with a lot of expanded slot machines at race tracks and Chicago airports.

The only reason he hasn’t already vetoed it is because Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, did the political equivalent of sticking the approved bill in a drawer.

After all, if it’s not on Quinn’s desk, he can’t reject it. And the legislators who are particularly eager to have more legal gambling opportunities in this state had hopes that they could twist Quinn’s arm this summer into going along with the pack. Giving his approval.

BEING ONE OF the boys, for a change.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Quinn this week said he’s not willing to approve this bill, even if there is some sort of follow-up measure that makes some changes in the more egregious portions of the main bill.
EMANUEL: Will Rahm-bo go after Quinn?

So it looks like we’re going to have to start the process all over again, particularly since Quinn made it clear that he hates all the portions of the bill that don’t specifically relate to the creation of casinos proper.

He doesn’t want slot machines at the race tracks – even though for some rural Illinois legislators, that was the only reason they supported the thing in the first place. The last thing they want is a Chicago-based casino that likely would suck the life out of all the other Illinois casinos AND those in surrounding states.

I COULDN’T HELP but notice one Springfield radio announcer say that Quinn had sold out the capital city, throwing it under the bus, so to speak, because one of the places that would have been permitted to install slot machines would have been the racetrack that is part of the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Even though Quinn made it clear from the beginning that his priority on this issue was letting Chicago have some sort of casino.

Which is why I don’t see Quinn’s rhetoric from earlier this week as being contradictory. He said all along he didn’t like the bill and was inclined to reject it. Now he says he will reject it.

In fact, I find his statement that “It cannot be some kind of bill that passes to appease every single lobbyist in Springfield,” to be a noble one.

SOME PEOPLE ARE incapable of distinguishing political distinctions from practical ones, and automatically assume that the slimy parts of deals that are done to gain political support somehow benefit the public good.

If it truly takes the presence of legislators voting their self-interest for slot machines at racetracks (which are necessary these days because few people care about the “sport of Kings” rhetoric and are just interested in placing a bet, any bet, on anything), then perhaps it is best that we acknowledge that there just isn’t enough political support for casino expansions.

Not for a Chicago facility, or for casinos near the state borders in Rock City or the south suburbs, or in Rockford or Danville.

Perhaps we need to start over. Dismiss this current bill, and just come up with a new one. It means the process will drag on for another few years, if not decades. But when one considers how many decades this issue has already existed, what difference does another day make?

THAT IS, OF course, unless Quinn decides to flop about a bit more.

For there have been points during the summer months when I heard that Quinn approved of a Chicago casino, but hated the idea of a south suburban one as being too close to the city. I had also heard that the governor might allow for slot machines at a racetrack in the south suburbs, so as to compensate those local political people for not getting a full-fledged casino in a place like Country Club Hills or Ford Heights.

So is this latest Quinn pronouncement another change? Is it possible that political people could still wind up pressuring him into going along? Is Quinn going to have to face the Emanuel persona that helped turn Congress Democrat back in 2006, or was put to use during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama?

At the very least, the rhetoric will be entertaining.

AND ONE FINAL thought. Reports are coming out that some legislators think they have enough support to override Quinn’s veto of a bill that would have allowed for “Smart Grid” technology to be implemented by Commonwealth Edison – with consumers getting hit with near-automatic rate hikes to pay for it.

How many legislators will be motivated to override Quinn on this issue, as punishment for the governor killing the casino or slot machines they had hoped would be built near their homes?


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