Illinois legislators proposed an expansion of casino gambling on the territory of the state that will see the launch of new gambling establishments in six locations. The proposal aims at boosting the cash-strapped state’s revenue as well as ending the two-year period during which Illinois was lacking an annual spending plan.
The gambling expansion proposal is part of the “grand bargain” to break the two-year budget deadlock in Illinois. The grand bargain was derailed last week but the state’s Senate endorsed the casino expansion as it would enable Illinois to cash in on the lucrative gambling industry.
The Senate may have given the casino expansion proposal a green light, but the new gambling legislation would not be able to move forward unless it is accompanied by the passing of several other bills that are part of the grand bargain. The spending deal was put on hold after Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner expressed his objection to certain parts of the plan.
The acceptance of the proposal would result in ending the so-called “river gambling” in Illinois as several landbased casinos would be granted licenses to operate legally in Chicago as well as in Rockford, Danville in east central Illinois, Williamson County, and in undetermined locations in Lake County.
Landbased casinos were prohibited from operating in the Windy City because of heavy competition with horse racing in the region. Supporters of the gambling expansion proposal hope it would prevent local players from frequenting Indiana to wager and thus, would boost the local economy.
Democratic Sen. Terry Link sponsored an analysis of the expansion, which indicated that if the proposal is accepted, Illinois would collect almost $1 billion in set-up fees. The license fees for Chicago and its south suburban areas would range between $30,000 and $100,000 per slot machine or seat at the blackjack tables. Additionally, the gambling expansion in Illinois would create permanent casino jobs in local communities.
The tax rates are another benefit of expanding the state’s gambling industry. Currently, the largest “river-boat” casinos in Illinois are taxed at 50%. If landbased casinos open doors in the state, existing gambling establishments would suffer, so the tax rates on their revenue need to be adjusted to as little as 16% for table games and 20% for slot machines. Analysis of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability indicated that annual revenue would be boosted by 18% to reach roughly $560 million.
If the new legislation pushes through, existing gambling establishments in Illinois would be allowed to expand their operations with 400 seats. In addition, the airports and four horse racing tracks in Chicago would be permitted to offer slot machines on their premises.
However, not everyone approves the gambling expansion proposal on the territory of the state. Anita Bedell, Head of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, argues that gambling expansion is likely to result in additional costs for the state.
Bedell went on to says $3 are deducted from taxpayers’ money per every $1 the state collects in gambling revenue in order to address the accompanying increase in crime, bankruptcy, and addiction. Bedell also questioned the logic of gambling expansion when there is a drop in Illinois casinos’ revenue because of the competition they face from store-front video gambling.