Illinois Considers Casino Industry Expansion to End Budget Impasse

If one thing could be said with certainty after one month into 2017, that would be that it seems the year will be a busy one from a legislative point of view. A host of US states have made determined steps toward the expansion of their gambling industries and first reactions suggest that some may succeed in their efforts by the end of the year.

It has become known earlier this week that Illinois will be looking to introduce expanded gambling options within its borders in an attempt to end a long-standing budget impasse. The Senate Gaming Committee has informed the state Legislature that it plans to produce a legislation that would allow for the establishment of a total of six casinos – a land-based one in Chicago and five riverboats in other designated locations. In addition, the legislation will propose the addition of slot machines at Illinois’ existing horse racing tracks.

State legislators have failed to introduce what should be an effective budget plan since mid-2015. Gambling expansion has previously been put on the table as a possible solution to the budget issue. However, former Illinois Governor – Pat Quinn – rejected any efforts made toward the availability of additional gambling options. However, the state’s current top official – Bruce Rauner – has shown openness to discussing anything that could help Illinois make any progress with the budget limbo.

The Gaming Committee has explained that if new casinos are allowed, licensing fees for their operations will be used to fund the state at a time when additional revenue sources are much-needed. Revenue from the gambling establishments will be used to support different educational programs around the state. As for the proposed Chicago casino, it will be required to contribute funds to the city’s fire and police pension accounts.

Even though the proposed gambling expansion will come as an effort for the state to put an end to its budget trials, it will certainly meet opposition. Critics have already voiced concerns over the effects the addition of more gambling options would have on Illinois residents, arguing that the state’s gambling market has already been saturated with video poker.

A recent report by the Illinois Gambling Board has shown that 3,000 new video gambling terminals were made available around the state in 2016. According to the regulatory body, gambling revenue increased to $277 million last year from $228 million in 2015.

Illinois and Online Gambling

It seems, at least for now, that Illinois will not consider iGaming as a possible budget savior. Although Gov. Rauner has said that he would give the nod to brick-and-mortar casino expansion, if that is what communities want, the state’s lawmaker is less resolved when it comes online gambling.

It is still to early but it seems that an iGaming bill is not likely to be considered in the Legislature this year, particularly one to be included in the larger budget-boosting scheme.

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