Illinois Lawmakers Approve Sports Betting; Chicago And Southern Illinois Get A Casino

Jun 3, 2019

Chicago, Rockford, and Southern Illinois will get the casinos they’ve been fighting to get for years.

In a special session Saturday and Sunday, lawmakers approved six more casinos to operate in the state, bundled up with a framework for a legal sports betting market. Revenue from taxes and other fees from the expansion are slated to go toward vertical construction needs — like schools, prisons and other state-owned buildings. 

State Rep. Terri Bryant (R- Murphysboro), said prisons and universities have been looking for ways to fund their crumbling infrastructure.

“At SIU Carbondale, we have four buildings that have to have new roofs, because they’ve had to move computers out of an entire room, simply to be able to keep those computers from having water drip on them from the ceiling.” Bryant voted in favor of the plan.

Legalization of sports betting came after months of negotiation among stakeholders, including casino and race track owners, video gaming operators and professional sports leagues — all who wanted to benefit from the possibility of a legal market. The plan allows for sports betting to take place inside casinos, racetracks and sports venues that sit more the 17,000 people, such as Wrigley Field. 

Most recently a feud between daily fantasy sports provider FanDuel and Rivers Casino chairman Neil Bluhm threatened to derail negotiations.

State Rep. Bob Rita (D- Blue Island), who helped lead the expansion plan, said the final measure covers significant ground — even if many other items, like regulation of sweepstakes machines, were left out. 

“In putting this together, everyone didn’t get exactly what they wanted, but in terms of having a good bill, a good negotiation, this is what you have to do.”

Soon after Rita unveiled the plan Friday afternoon, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a statement opposed the provision allowing betting inside sporting venues. She said while she supports a gaming plan that takes Chicago into consideration, expanding sports betting to sports venues had the potential to undermine a Chicago-based casino by luring customers away. But by Saturday afternoon, Lightfoot had removed her opposition. 

The expansion plan also adds a racetrack in Cook county, slot machines for O’Hare and Midway airports, video gaming terminals at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield and additional gaming positions for existing casinos.

Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, has opposed casino expansion.  “With the cannibalization and saturation I’ve talked about in the past, this bill is not going to generate the kind of funds people may think it is – doubling the number of gaming positions, you’re not doubling the number of gamblers.” Swoik is a supporter of sports betting and considers it a new market with benefits for all other gaming industries. 

State Sen. Terry Link (D- Vernon Hills), also helped with the negotiations. Sunday’s vote in the Senate was an emotional moment for the lawmaker, who has tried to pass gaming expasion legislation in the past. 

“I have only been doing this for 20 years, trying to get this done and it’s a little emotional. I have to say, this has been a job-creation bill from day one.”

Sports Betting – Illinois joins a dozen other states 

With the U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow states outside of Nevada to regulate sports betting, within a year, 12 states jumped in on the opportunity. Most recently, Iowa’s and Indiana’s governors signed their own respective measures into law. 

Lawmakers had planned to tackle the sports betting measure as a separate issue to gaming expansion. The push to increase gaming positions, add more casinos, and hike the video gaming terminal tax, have all failed to pass in the past. Last minute, lawmakers saw the opportunity in bundling everything gaming into one massive plan. Some critics worried this would be an issue for  But the approach worked. 

The details:

Who gets a license? Racetracks, casinos, sports venues; after 18 months, three licenses will be up for grabs for online-only betting companies

Revenue estimates: $60 million a year

Taxes rate on wagers: 15 %

Mobile component? Yes. 

Betting on college sports? No

Integrity fees for professional sports leagues: No. 

Money for gambling addiction (in overall package): $6.8 million