My latest column is up at the Rock River Times this week.
Last week, the Illinois House passed a bill that would authorize five new casinos, including one in Rockford, and allow slot machines at the state’s racetracks. This bill was just short of the 71 votes needed to shield it from Gov. Pat Quinn’s threatened veto.
It is my contention that Gov. Quinn should not only sign this bill into law, but the Illinois legislature should go one step further and replace the state’s haphazard gambling laws with one simple piece of legislation that taxes, regulates and treats gaming in Illinois like any other entertainment industry.
Legal gambling has come to Illinois in fits and starts. For much of our history, most forms of gambling were prohibited by law and either controlled by organized crime or occasionally tolerated by public officials and law enforcement.
Betting on horse races has been legal since 1927, an Illinois lottery began in 1972, and in 1990, then-Gov. Jim Thompson signed a bill authorizing 10 licenses for riverboat casinos.
In 2009, legislators voted to legalize the video poker machines that had already been operating in thousands of bars, restaurants and truck stops throughout the state. Gov. Quinn, however, has dragged his heels over any further expansion, and he vetoed a gaming bill last year that would have brought a casino to Rockford.