Gambling Expansion in the Works for Illinois

by Jim Hall

Illinois GamblingCasino gambling legislation in the works for Illinois, offering an expansion of at least six new venues plus slots at horse race tracks.

Many states in the US already offer casino gaming, by way of tribal casinos or commercial gaming options. Once the state sees a stable industry, expansion can occur. Before an expansion can take place, lawmakers have decide what will be offered, proposals made and approved. In Illinois, a casino gambling expansion has been under consideration for some time now, with as many as six new casinos a possibility if a new gambling bill is approved.

New ‘Grand’ Plan

Illinois lawmakers have been unable to create a spending plan for the past two years and have been looking for some way to bring in extra cash. For Illinois, a gambling expansion would create additional income that is much-needed. The gambling plan is actually a part of a much larger deal known as the ‘grand bargain’. The state wants to see an end to the deadlock in regards to the spending plan and has created several ways in which to do so.

The grand bargain was unable to gain any ground last week but the plan for new casinos has actually moved forward. The state Senate has now shown their approval for a proposal that would add six new gaming locations in the state as well as additional extended gaming. The legislation however, will not be able to move forward unless it is part of a larger plan in the grand bargain.

What Would Take Place?

So what would this gambling expansion do? To begin, six new casino locations would be created. A gaming license would be made available for the Chicago area in locations of Lake County, Rockford, Danville and Williamson County. This would actually signify the first time the state offered standard land based gaming as the current venues are based after the riverboat gambling laws of the state. Originally, Chicago was an area that was considered off-limits to casino gaming due to the horse racing industry. However, supporters now feel that a casino in the area would help to boost tourism as well as keep gamblers in the state instead of going to nearby Indiana for casino gaming.

SB7 was introduced by Senator Terry Link and has been estimated to be an option that would bring as much as $1 billion to the state in startup fees. Venues located in Chicago and the south suburban areas would require a payment of $100,000 up front along with $30,000 for each position of gambling. A position is considered a seat at the card table or slot game so money could add up quickly for the state due to these terms.

On top of such fees, the state would also benefit from construction jobs that would be created as well as jobs at the gaming venues. Senator Dale Fowler, commented on the trickle-down effect as the doors in the state would be open for conventions, which is something that southern Illinois does not currently offer.

To keep things competitive, the proposal will allow tax rates to be much lower than they currently are. Casinos that already exist pay around 50% in taxes. If new casinos are added, the state would change the tax rate to 16% for table games and 20% of slot games. The existing casinos would also be allowed to offer an additional 400 seats for gaming, which will also help them stay competitive.

An additional expansion option will include allowing the state’s four horse racing tracks slot gaming machines. Airports in Chicago would also be allowed to install gaming machines in the terminals.

For now, the legislation has a long way to go in order to become law. We will stay tuned to see if any developments take place with this measure in the coming weeks.