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Link: Wait until next year on gaming bill

Updated: January 30, 2012 2:13AM

A tumultuous year on the Illinois gaming front ended quietly Tuesday when legislators closed an extended fall session without taking projected action on a new expansion proposal, one that was expected to include a Lake County casino.

But state Sen. Terry Link, the Waukegan Democrat who chairs the Senate Gaming Committee, said Wednesday that all involved decided to wait until the 98th General Assembly convenes in late January, when he believes a version will start evolving that meets the scrutiny of Gov. Pat Quinn.

“We made a decision, myself and (Senate) President (John) Cullerton, that we are going to sit down and negotiate with the governor,” Link said. “We’ll be meeting in December and January, and we re-convene on Jan. 29. Hopefully, we’ll have something together by then.”

Link added that “we have the framework all put together, and everybody’s very optimistic, including the governor’s office.”

Quinn was publicly unenthusiastic about a gaming-expansion plan that passed through both houses of the Legislature in May. That bill called not only for five new casinos — including one in Park City — but also for such additions as slot machines at racetracks.

Cullerton held back the bill all summer in an attempt to craft a scaled-down version that could pass through the fall session and win Quinn’s signature. Among Quinn’s specific objections was the Park City location for a Lake County casino, leading to speculation by Waukegan officials that their Fountain Square site on Route 43 was back in play.

While Link announced earlier this month that he hoped to present a bill Nov. 29 with “major changes” from the springtime proposal, he said Wednesday that he decided “not to run anything out of the Senate this week. ... We want to do something where we can pass it and have the governor sign it into law.”

Link declined to say what a new gaming proposal might have for Lake County, saying “you don’t show your cards beforehand.” He did say that he feels the climate for negotiating a deal has improved.

“We pretty much decided that instead of fighting against each other,” he said, “we’re going to sit down and get this done.”

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