A key negotiator for a gambling expansion bill said Sunday that further negotiations are needed before a bill will be given to lawmakers for a vote.
However, Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, said he remains confident an agreement can be reached on a plan to expand the number of casinos in the state and also to legalize sports betting as a number of other states have already done.
The House Executive Committee is scheduled to hear a gambling expansion bill sponsored by Rita at a meeting Monday morning. Rita, though, said he expects the bill will be sent to the House floor stripped of its substantive language until an agreement is reached.
“We have a governor’s office that’s engaged. We have the Senate that’s engaged. I’m engaged with all of them,” Rita said. “We’ve never been all engaged together, along with the Republicans. There’s a lot more will in doing something. It feels very different.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker initially called for legalization of sports betting to help balance the budget. He also said the issue should be considered on its own and not get tied to the broader issue of expanded casino gaming.
Rita said the issues of expanded casinos and sports betting are linked at this time.
“It’s not 100 percent there, but that’s the direction we’ve been going,” he said.
He also said sports betting by itself may not have enough support to pass the legislature.
“People want casinos in their regions,” he said. “If we go forward with just sports betting, where does that leave what we’ve been working on all these years? We’re looking for money. This is a way of putting additional money to the state.”
The idea of adding casinos in Illinois has been around since the Quinn administration. The most recent proposal would add casinos in Chicago, Lake County, the south Chicago suburbs, Rockford, Danville and Williamson County. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said getting a casino for Chicago is one of the top priorities for her new administration.
Rita said he doesn’t think a bill to limit casino expansion to Chicago alone would have support in the legislature.
Although Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder tried to get the city council to endorse the idea of a Springfield casino, it does not appear to be part of the discussions.
“They were supposed to vote on a resolution,” Rita said. “These other areas are all on the same page. In terms of Rockford, everybody wants it. You’re not having conflicting (views). If we have where it’s not 100 percent what they’re looking for, how do you put that in a bill?”
The House returned to Springfield Sunday and adjourned after a short floor session. The Senate returns to Springfield Monday. The spring session is scheduled to conclude Friday.