In a post mortem on the spring legislative session presented to the Waukegan City Council, Elias Mossos of McGuireWoods Consulting said the late-May demise of a casino bill was something of a blessing for Park City, North Chicago and Waukegan. | File
Updated: August 21, 2013 2:43AM
Waukegan has played the waiting game for years when it comes to gaming-expansion efforts out of the State Legislature, and the city’s lobbyists told aldermen on Monday, June 17, that something might yet emerge this fall after the latest effort fell apart at the last minute.
In a post mortem on the spring legislative session presented to the City Council, Elias Mossos of McGuireWoods Consulting said the late-May demise of a casino bill was something of a blessing for Park City, North Chicago and Waukegan, which had been named as prospective sites in a version approved by the State Senate on May 1.
“Senate Bill 1730 was the bill that had the most traction. It passed out of the Senate but seemed to stall in the House,” said Mossos, adding that both state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, both removed themselves from the process due to perceived conflicts of interest.
According to Mossos, state Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, “took over 11 days before the end of the spring session, so there was a short amount of time in which to work out some issues they had with the bill.”
Mossos added that on May 31, the last day of the session, a House amendment was filed that, among other things, “said the casino would be located somewhere in Lake County. It was a very last-minute amendment, and by the time it was filed (it) was announced by the sponsor that he was not going to call it.”
“Luckily, it did not go anywhere,” said Mossos, adding that Rita “claims he’s going to have hearings all over the state this summer, and he intends on filing a new version of the gaming bill in the fall veto session.”
The 98th General Assembly’s fall session starts on Oct. 22, and Mossos told the council that along with a location, the concept of sharing the wealth from a casino north of Lake Cook Road needs to be resolved.
“Prior versions of the gaming bill had revenue sharing between Waukegan, Park City and North Chicago. This version has no such language because it leaves the boat anywhere in Lake County,” Mossos said.
“I think it’s the intent of the sponsors down in Springfield to have robust revenue-sharing agreements based on whoever wins the casino in this region, but without that language in the bill, there’s no guarantee that revenues will flow to any surrounding communities.”
Earlier this month, Rita told Sun-Times Media that he changed the the geography to all of Lake County because “I felt that since the location of a south suburban casino had never been site-specific, enveloping six townships, the same thing should be good for the northern suburbs.”
As in recent gaming bills that made it through the Legislature but were not signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, SB 1739 proposed new casinos in south Cook County, Chicago, Danville and Rockford along with the three Lake County communities.
The Senate version also called for 50 percent of adjusted gross receipts from a Lake County casino to go to Waukegan, with 25 percent to Park City and 25 percent to North Chicago regardless of the facility’s host site.
After being approved by the Senate 32-20, the bill’s journey through the House ended with it being sent back to the Rules Committee.