Land-BasedCasinoLegal & Regulatory

Senator may separate gambling bill from "Grand Bargain"

A bi

ll allowing six new casinos to be built in the state of Illinois may go ahead even if the “Grand Bargain” package of financial measures it is part of fails to gain approval.

One of the sponsors of the bill, Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford says that if the state’s budget plans are nixed, he would separate the gambling bill and attempt to pass it separately.

“If the overall Grand Bargain doesn’t move as we hoped it would, certainly our goal would be to have this one move forward because it does help all parties and it does help parts of the state,” Syverson says.

Syverson claims that $1.5bn was lost to neighbouring states, and that by opening casinos in the Illinois, the revenue will be brought back. “These states are building casinos right on the Illinois border to get Illinois residents. We’re strategically placing these casinos in defensive nodes along the Wisconsin and Illinois borders.

“It really does two things. It helps bring gaming revenue into Illinois, and it stops the big outflow of people from Illinois going to surrounding states."

Supporters of the bill argue that it's not just the gambling, but the conventions that the casinos and their hotels host that could also generate revenue.

“We hope this is one of those bills ... that both chambers and both parties can look at and take some credit for. This is really something that shouldn’t be caught up in some of the more controversial issues going on,” Syverson says.

“Hopefully this helps open the door for some of the other bills that can be negotiated and passed on a bipartisan basis as well.”

The bill, however, does not come unopposed.

Anita Bedell, Executive Director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems believes that bigger casinos would do more harm than good.

“It’s too much. The state is already in trouble financially, and trying to make more money off gambling is not the answer,” Bedell said.

“With video gambling on practically every corner and all the other types of gambling they have in Illinois, there are so many opportunities for people to lose their money as is, and expanding it any further is just going to cause more harm to individuals and families.”

Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon is one of the senators who is opposed to the bill. He says that by adding more casinos, it would be adding to crime in the state.

Bivins explains, “I guess my thought is if more expanded gambling would fix the problems of Illinois, it would have (already) been fixed.

“We’ve got more video stations, more gambling, than about anybody in the world, I think. From my previous career in law enforcement, I’ve seen the other side of this issue, which is why I’m opposed to it. You may get more revenue, but you also get more crime, more people addicted to gambling, you always get more.”

Senate Bill 7, or SB7, will also enable existing casinos to expand, while allowing slot machines to be installed at four horse-racing tracks and airports in Chicago. The six casinos would potentially be built in Chicago, the southern suburbs of Chicago, Rockford, Danville, Williamson County, and Lake County.

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