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Legislative gambling hearing rescheduled

Updated: March 26, 2014 6:15AM



A public hearing on the latest attempt by the Legislature to expand gambling in Illinois, including establishing a casino in the Southland, has been rescheduled for early next month.

The hearing was canceled last week because of bad weather.

State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, announced the meeting Monday. It’s scheduled for 6 p.m. March 3 at the Tinley Park Convention Center, 18451 Convention Center Drive.

“I’m a firm believer that gambling expansion can provide great benefits to the state of Illinois and the communities where it comes,” Rita said in a press release Monday. “But it is important that we put a bill together that is transparent and that deals fairly with taxpayers and all of the interests involved. My hope is these hearings put us on the path to getting that done this spring.”

Legislation under consideration would allow five new casinos, including one in Chicago and at an as-yet undetermined location in the south suburbs, as well as slot machines at horse racing tracks and O’Hare and Midway airports. It would allow current and future casino licensees to apply for online gambling licenses.

Southland mayors and business leaders are among those invited to attend the hearing to give input on the bill. Rita recently held a similar hearing in East St. Louis and said he intends to schedule others, including one in Chicago.

Proponents of expanded gambling say it could bring in between $400 million and $1 billion in new annual revenue to Illinois.

That money could be a key selling point in rallying support for the bill, as lawmakers consider either extending the state’s temporary income tax increase, which is scheduled to roll back from 5 percent to 3.75 percent in January, or finding ways to make up for that lost tax revenue.

This is the fourth time in as many years that the Legislature has tried to pass a gambling expansion bill. Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed bills in 2011 and 2012 because of several concerns, mainly regarding ethics and regulation, and last year the legislation never reached a House vote after passing in the Senate.



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