Illinois Governor Stops Short of State- Run Internet Gambling

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is currently engaged in a war of ideas with Republican legislators in order to find a way to finance the school upgrades and other state improvements that are part of his $3.2 billion budget proposal. 

Governor Blagojevich, who is a Democrat, famously proposed funding school upgrades with an expansion of legalized gambling in the state.  The Governor wants to give licenses to install Keno machines to bars and convenience and retail stores across the state.  The government would then tax the proceeds from the machines heavily.  Governor Blagojevich has claimed in the past that he has the authority to grant the licenses, without approval from lawmakers.

Keno is often described as a cross between bingo and a lottery, in which players bet on a set of numbers of their own selection every few minutes. 

The $3.2 capital proposal would use money from a state road tax fund, keno gambling proceeds, and other assorted to taxes to defray the costs of new roads, school and mass- transit system improvements, and more. 

In a similar vein, some of Governor Blagojevich’s fellow Democrats in the legislature have proposed the legalization of a limited amount of state- sponsored of online gambling as another source of revenue.  The members of the House and Senate behind this idea proposed legalizing online lottery sales.  The plan, in fact, has already passed the Senate and awaits a ruling by legislators in the House.   

However, perhaps in an effort to soothe those up in arms about his original plan, Blagojevich said that he could not condone the legalization of any sort of online gambling. "That, to me, is bringing gambling into somebody's home. I'm not in favor of that," Blagojevich told the crowd gathered during a stop in a St. Louis suburb to rally support for his budget plan on Monday.

Blagojevich also said Monday that he is not “married” to the Keno plan, and challenged lawmakers to come up with a better plan to finance the new budget.  "If (opponents) have problems with keno and they have another idea, I'm happy to hear what they have to say," he said.

Illinois’s governor also accused Republican lawmakers of “a breathtaking failure of leadership” and of irresponsible partisanship in their handling of the capital bill. 

"Our Republican friends want to stick it to a Democratic governor. They do it all the time, so why change now," Blagojevich said. "But don't do it on this bill."

Although many states have raised money through lottery sales or other gambling- related activities, no state has ever tried to raise money via the legalization of any form of online gambling. 


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