he bill's sponsor, Democratic Senator Terry Link of Waukegan, said the measure would bring in money to help the state close its us$ 11.6 billion deficit. Senator Dave Syverson said the measure would "jump-start" Rockford's economy and pave the way for new business like a new outlet mall and a museum/restaurant from Rick Nielson of the band Cheap Trick.
"If the casino gets approved, there's a series of other investments that will follow," said Syverson. "With this addition, you'll suddenly have another half-billion dollars in construction and over a thousand new jobs for the region."
Syverson also said the Rockford casino would be a "defensive" move against a planned Indian casino in Wisconsin."These other states with casinos on the Illinois border are going after Illinois residents," he said. "With this bill, we'll now be going after their money instead."
Opponents expressed a reservation to expand gambling, especially after the legislature last week voted to legalize tens of thousands of video poker machines in bars, truck stops and restaurants throughout Illinois and authorized the sale of certain lottery tickets online.
"With the video poker, Internet lottery, horse racing and now these casinos, there's going to be nothing left but wide-open gambling for the whole state," said Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems spokeswoman Anita Bedell.
Last week, the Senate voted on the measure but it fell two votes short of the 30 "yes" votes needed to pass. Link, however, used a parliamentary move to allow it to be changed and voted on again. In an attempt to court more lawmakers, such as Democratic Senator Mike Frerichs of Gifford, Link added an additional riverboat in Danville from the proposal that originally was rejected. The measure now heads back to the full Senate for a vote.