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New versions of gambling expansion floated at Statehouse

7 months, 1 week ago Doug Finke, State Capitol Bureau

Fewer overall gaming positions than under previous expansion plans

From Doug Finke, State Capitol Bureau :
A key advocate of expanded gambling is offering a revised plan that would put a state-owned casino in Chicago with up to 10,000 gaming positions.
Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, is also offering another plan that would put a smaller casino in Chicago while also adding four other casinos and allowing slot machines at horse racing tracks, although on a smaller scale than previously discussed.
Under either version, there would be fewer overall gaming positions than would have been created under previous expansion plans.
“It has the same structure, but it’s scaled back. It’s not the big, giant gaming expansion,” Rita said Thursday.
However, he said it still “raises a significant amount of money for the state and the locals.”
Under one proposal, a casino that has 4,000 to 10,000 positions would be located in Chicago. The casino would be state-owned rather than city-owned. Some lawmakers have balked at the idea of Chicago owning its own casino.
Revenue from the casino would be split between the city and the state, with the state’s share dedicated to education and capital projects. Gov. Pat Quinn has insisted in the past that money from gambling expansion be dedicated to education.
Under the second proposal, a state-owned casino would still be placed in Chicago, although it would be limited to no more than 6,000 positions. Additional casinos would be in the suburbs south of Chicago and in Lake, Winnebago and Vermilion counties. Unlike earlier versions, this does not specify that casinos be in Rockford and Danville.
“It’s a matter of fairness,” Rita said. “If there’s a good plan for Rockford, maybe there are two different plans. We’ll see what is best.”
Local revenue from those casinos could only be spent on capital projects and pensions.
Most of Illinois’ horse racing tracks would be allowed to install slot machines, although only half of what was allowed in previous expansion plans. Fairmont Park in Collinsville would not be allowed to install slots. Rita said concerns were raised at a public hearing that slots at Fairmont would hurt the Casino Queen in East St. Louis.
Previous expansion bills dedicated a portion of proceeds to various causes, such as helping county fairs and other agriculture programs.
“We took all of the dedicated funds out of it,” Rita said of the latest versions.

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