Illinois Senate approves plan for six new casinos

By Nicole Abbott
Illinois legislators have tabled a proposal to expand gambling in the state by constructing six new casinos. This proposal aims to boost the needy state’s finances following a failure to devise a viable annual spending plan over the last two years.

News sources have reported that the plan to build more casinos is part of Illinois’ “Grand bargain” to escape its two-year financial standstill, and has been endorsed by the senate. However, the Grand bargain was recently derailed, and the gambling legislation required to institute these new casinos is currently held back by several other related bills which are yet to be approved.

This new legislation would legalise licensed casino operators in Chicago, Rockford, Danville, Williamson County, and in various locations in Lake County. Those who support the gambling expansion proposal hope local players will remain in the state to gamble, which would boost the local economy.

An analysis of the expansion sponsored by Democratic Sen. Terry Link indicated that Illinois would stand to collect almost $1 billion in set-up fees, and license fees for Chicago and its south suburban areas would range between $30,000 and $100,000 per slot machine or seat at the blackjack tables. Furthermore, the new casinos would provide permanent casino jobs in local communities.

The state’s largest “river-boat” casinos, currently taxed at 50%, will experience a huge tax reduction to as little as 16% for table games and 20% for slot machines, to allow them to compete with the new land-based casinos.

Analysis of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability indicated that annual revenue would be boosted by 18% to around $560 million.

The new legislation will also permit existing gambling establishments in the state to expand their operations by 400 seats. Airports and four horse racing tracks in Chicago would also be allowed to offer slot machines on their premises.

However, Anita Bedell, Head of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, argues that gambling expansion will inflate the state’s spending: “Every time you expand gambling, you create more costs.”

Bedell further notes that for every $1 the state collects in gambling revenue, $3 is deducted from taxpayers’ money in order to tackle to consequent rise in crime, bankruptcy, and addiction.

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