SPRINGFIELD | There’s a new face at the negotiating table when it comes to a massive expansion of gambling in Illinois.
In a move that could signal new life for the plan to add casinos and slot machines at horse racing tracks, state Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, is out as the House sponsor of an expansion proposal that has already won approval in the Senate.
State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, is now leading the talks in an attempt to find a compromise with Gov. Pat Quinn.
The switch happened quietly on Monday when Lang — a longtime proponent of gambling expansion — was dropped as the House sponsor.
The governor, a Democrat from Chicago, has already vetoed two casino expansion bills. He wants lawmakers to add more anti-corruption language to the measure, such as banning campaign donations from casino owners.
On Tuesday, Rita offered few specifics on how he plans to approach negotiations that could result in casinos in Chicago, Rockford, Danville, Lake County and Cook County’s south suburbs.
“I’m going to go through it (the bill) and find out where the sticking points are,” Rita said. “It was just switched over last night.”
Lang, an attorney who has spent years working to expand gambling in Illinois, said he dropped out of the talks because there may be a perceived conflict of interest between his sponsorship of the measure and a client of his law firm.
In a statement filed with the House clerk's office, Lang said a client of his law firm has an interest that could be impacted by the passage of the proposed legislation.
"(I) do no legal work for this client, and I receive no compensation from their relationship with the firm," Lang wrote. "There have been no violations of any kind."
Despite having a short window of time before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the summer on May 31, Rita said he thinks a gambling plan can be sent to Quinn.
“We’re going to try and move this forward,” Rita said.