By GRANT MORGAN
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD – Six new casinos along with sports betting parlors at Chicago’s arenas might be two of a host of changes coming to Illinois’ gambling landscape if lawmakers approve comprehensive legislation released late Friday morning.
The proposed gambling expansion, filed as Amendment 2 to Senate Bill 690 by Rep. Robert Rita, D- Blue Island, incorporates many of the policy changes that lawmakers have discussed during various hearings throughout the legislative session.
Those changes include increasing the number of casinos in Illinois, allowing race tracks to turn into “racinos,” legalizing sports gambling at brick-and-mortar facilities and online, and changing the video gaming betting and tax structure.
The legislation passed out of a House committee late Friday evening, but must still be approved by the full House and Senate before being sent to the governor. Both chambers were scheduled to end their sessions Friday. The House, however, announced plans to continue working through Sunday.
Language similar to that introduced in prior years would allow six new casinos to be built in Chicago, Waukegan, the south suburbs of Chicago, Williamson County, Rockford and Danville. Mayors of some of those cities previously testified that time is running out before bordering states build their own casinos and block out the market.
But Tom Swoik of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association testified that adding that many casinos in the state would lead to over-saturation of the gambling market no matter what.
Currently, the state’s 10 casinos are each allowed 1,200 “positions,” a term used to describe the distinct method, such as a slot machine or a blackjack table seat, where an individual can place bets. The proposed legislation would bump up the maximum position number at each casino to 2,000, with 4,000 allowed at the Chicago casino.
Swoik said that could almost double the number of gambling positions in Illinois, from 43,000 to 81,000.
“With the … saturation I’ve talked about in the past, this bill is not going to generate the kind of funds people may think it is,” Swoik said. “You’re doubling the number of positions, but you’re not doubling the number of gamblers.”
But by charging a $17,500 licensing fee ($30,000 for a Chicago casino) for each new gambling position at any casino, the state stands to reap hundreds of millions in revenue on top of increased yearly tax revenue, Rita said.
Language in the amendment would also legalize sports gambling at both brick-and-mortar locations and through online and mobile vendors like DraftKings and FanDuel.
Brick-and-mortar licenses for race tracks and casinos would cost from $3.2 million to $10 million, depending on the facility. Licenses for sports arenas – such as United Center or Wrigley Field – would cost $10 million.
In the first 18 months of legal sports gambling, those venues would be able to partner with an online platform to provide mobile sports betting. After 18 months, the state would make available three online sports betting licenses for $20 million each, so that an online vendor could provide betting without being connected to a brick-and-mortar location.
All sports betting would be taxed at 15 percent, with revenues going toward projects in a capital bill.
Sports bets could not be placed on Illinois’ collegiate teams.
Video gambling, race tracks
While video gambling operators would not be able to purchase sports betting licenses, they would see an increase in the amount someone can place on a single bet – from $2 to $4 – along with greater possible winnings and higher jackpots per machine.
The number of video gambling terminals allowed at one location would increase from five to six, as well.
Race tracks, on the other hand, would be allowed to install gambling positions like slot machines and video gambling terminals, effectively turning them into racinos.