Illinois Lawmakers Continue to Consider Gambling Expansion

Summary: After Senate and House committees met last week to hear gambling expansion ideas, lawmakers are set to continue discussions in October.

Like every other state in the US, Illinois is trying to figure out how to bring in more money. Last week, a joint hearing took place involving House and Senate committees where testimony was heard involving a gambling expansion bill that would see several changes in the state. Included in the mix is six new casinos as well as more gaming options added to the existing casinos and horse track allowed to add slot machines.

Movement Tends to Stall

IllinoisThe gambling expansion bill was passed by the Senate last year but never came up for a vote in the House. The goal of the discussions was to help push for some type of movement regarding the possible expansion of gambling in the state. Back in the spring, the House decided to add an amendment to the legislation to allow race tracks to provide table games as well as slots. The amendment would also see more video gaming terminals added to businesses that offer this option.

The state is set to host another hearing in October, this time in the capital of Springfield. During this meeting, lawmakers are to consider sports betting along with fantasy sports legislation. While discussions are a good starting point, Illinois has a long track record of presenting legislation for expanded gambling only to see efforts fail.

Representative Mike Zalewski, House Revenue Committee chair, was part of last week’s meeting and stated that there is ‘enough wind at our backs’ that if the right balance is struck, many lawmakers would say the expansion is worth doing. According to Zalewski, no matter who wins the election in November, the state is still going to be behind financially, and a solution must be found.

Proponents Exist

An expansion for Illinois as far as gambling is concerned has been on the table for some time. There are lawmakers on board as well as stakeholders. Chris Stone is a developer and lobbyist of Springfield who hopes to see the changes come to pass. Stone would like to create a casino in the downtown area of Springfield and provide video gaming to the state fairgrounds.

Currently, a casino for Springfield is not included in the gaming expansion bill. For now, Stone will continue to have discussions and hopefully see his plans come to fruition, or at least be considered.

And of course, along with proponents, there are those who are opposed. The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability was asked to review the gaming expansion bill and determine what the impact would be on existing gaming revenues.

In the hearing last week, the group noted that the adjusted gross receipts for the existing casinos have continued to decline each year over a six year time frame. Tax revenues that are derived from casino gaming has declined while video gaming terminals continue to rake in an increase in profits.

The nearby state of Indiana has also seen a drop in their casino earnings and video gaming in Illinois is apparently the culprit. It seems that video gaming is the top option in the state and the casino games are taking a hit.

The report by the group also estimated that new casinos for Illinois would create around $12 million in annual revenues for the state.

For now, it will be interesting to see what lawmakers decide and how the October hearing will play in to the decision making process involving several aspects of casino gaming.