Gambling Expansion Back on Front Burner

Gambling Expansion Back on Front Burner

One northern Illinois lawmaker says 2019 will be the year for gambling expansion
in the state.
State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, has been a vocal advocate for recent bills
that would allow for up to six casinos in the state.
“This year, it’s going to happen,” Syverson said. “There’s a number of reasons for
that. One is the mayor of Chicago wasn’t all that supportive before. He’ll be gone.
And the frontrunners for the mayor’s race are very supportive of Chicago gaming.”
Syverson is optimistic Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker would sign a bill, if one gets to
his desk. The biggest hurdle in recent years has been trying to clear the House
floor.
“The problem is we have to get [Speaker] Madigan to call the bill. We’ve passed it
out of the Senate twice in the past two years, and Madigan has not allowed his
members to even vote on it.”
Pritzker generally was supportive of gambling expansion on the campaign trail,
saying revenue could pay for infrastructure projects across the state.
Recent proposals have called for up to six new casinos in Illinois, most of which
would be placed in border communities.
“We have five states around us building casinos right on the border, last year
taking $1.5 billion of entertainment dollars from Illinois across the border,”
Syverson said.
Senate Bill 7, which was approved by the Senate in 2017 but not called for a vote
in the House, would have permitted the creation of casinos in Chicago, south
suburban Cook County, northern Lake County, Danville, Rockford and
Williamson County.
Syverson says there’s no time to waste, as a mega-casino just across the border in
Wisconsin is drawing closer to reality.
“Beloit’s whole game plan is they expect the majority of their revenue to come
from northern Illinois,” Syverson said. “That means taking money from DeKalb,
Boone and Winnebago counties that otherwise would be spent in those areas.”
The final approval from the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs could come in the
next 90 days.
“That would be a problem for us,” Syverson said. “It would be a casino much
larger than what we would do. And Indian casinos don’t pay taxes. They can have
larger purses and they can subsidize their hotels, water parks, convention center,
and concert venues.”
[This story is from Illinois Radio Network News.]