Dillard now says 'No' on video gambling

  • Kirk Dillard

    Kirk Dillard

Published: 7/31/2009 12:00 AM

State Sen. Kirk Dillard, who wants to be governor, is pushing Gov. Pat Quinn to do what Dillard couldn't - say 'no' to legalizing video gambling machines.

The Hinsdale Republican voted in May to bring legal video gambling machines to bars, truck stops and liquor serving restaurants across the state to fund a $31 billion public works package.

Now he says Quinn should find a different cash cow.

"I don't like video poker," Dillard said Thursday about the slotlike machines. "I would urge Governor Quinn, if he can, to immediately look for a different revenue source."

Earlier this month, Quinn signed legislation to bring in up to $400 million from the expected expansion of 45,000 machines. The public works package is also backed by higher alcohol taxes and expanding the state lottery to the Internet.

But like Dillard, few lawmakers spoke in favor of legalizing video gambling machines as they voted for the multifaceted package.

Critics argue the machines are highly addictive and ripe for corruption. Illinois will be the largest state with such widespread legalized gambling.

Yet, the pressure was on in late May to come up with a spending measure to create jobs and upgrade the state's roads, transit and schools.

Senate President John Cullerton has said he has never even seen so-called video poker machines, but it was the only compromise funding source the Chicago Democrat said he could get Republican leadership to support.

In signing the legislation, Quinn openly reneged on a campaign pledge not to expand legalized gambling in the state.

Cullerton pushed for a 5 cent gas tax hike instead and Quinn argued for an increase in driver's license fees.

Dillard said he was torn in his vote, but ultimately said he wanted to keep his word to labor unions and business groups to support a major public works package.

"I had a gun to my head," he said during an interview with the Daily Herald editorial board Thursday.

Dillard said that if he is elected governor, he would reconsider the legalization of video gambling machines even though he voted for it in the state Senate. He did speak out against video gambling expansion as he voted for it.

Dillard said he would prefer to see the state use revenue from the sales tax on gasoline to cover the needed cash. Yet, he admits that would blow a $400 million hole in a state budget already billions of dollars in the red.

To cover that, Dillard said he would "grow the economy," hoping for new tax dollars from more jobs and sales.

Dillard is fighting for leverage in an increasingly crowded primary field. DuPage County Chairman Bob Schillerstrom of Naperville, radio commentator Dan Proft of Wheaton, state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine and state Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington are all in the running to carry the GOP banner into the general election.

The primary election is set for February.