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Illinois Takes a Giant Step for Gambling

May 09, 2003|From Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The first piece of a massive gambling expansion plan cleared its initial legislative hurdle Thursday, the day after Gov. Rod Blagojevich said he was open to the concept that he had campaigned against last year.

If passed in their entirety, Wednesday's proposals would change the face of gambling in Illinois, extending it from riverboats and horse tracks to corner bars and restaurants -- and place a casino in Chicago.

The plan is designed to help Illinois close its nearly $5-billion budget shortfall.

On Thursday, members of the House gambling committee voted 8 to 2 for the section of the plan that would allow slot machines at horse tracks and enable the state's existing casinos to add hundreds of more slot machines.

Voting on more contentious sections of the proposal, including the Chicago casino and legalization of 47,000 video poker machines at bars and restaurants statewide, was expected later.

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