Illinois Governor Shelves Signing of Bill to Legalize Online Gambling
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn is not signing the gambling expansion bill passed by lawmakers last week, not unless the State House and the Senate act on proposals that would properly finance the state’s pension system; as well as introduce reforms that can arrest the growing deficit of the state-guaranteed pension obligations.
The bill, if ratified, will also legalize online gambling. It likewise includes a proposal to divide the expanded gambling profits between treatment programs for problem gamblers and payment of pension claims. Apparently, such provisions are not enough for the governor. He also wants the lawmakers to formulate solutions that will arrest Illinois’ ever-increasing pension fund liabilities, currently estimated at $97 billion. As it is, the state continues to guarantee the payment of pension plans that went awry.
The pension deficit is one that has beset the State of Illinois for years and Governor Quinn believes that an overhaul of the state’s pension system is the first important step to take. Otherwise, a large part of state spending will continue to go toward the payment of pension claims that increase by as much as half a million dollars every hour. Chicago’s coffers are practically empty, since the state is already three years behind in paying off its vendors and contractors.
Although online gambling holds a promise of increasing the state’s revenues, Governor Quinn does not perceive its legalization as the immediate solution to the state’s long-standing financial problems. He cites that Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware legalized Internet gambling, yet up to now the industry is still not running because questions and issues over regulations still need addressing. For the State Governor, the online casino industry is still new and it would be best for Illinois to first observe how the three gambling states will fare.