New Illinois Gaming Board Chair Says Maintaining Integrity Key to Successful Casino Expansion

Posted on: August 12, 2019, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: August 11, 2019, 01:07h.

Newly appointed Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Charles Schmadeke says maintaining the integrity of casino operations is the most important task in the state’s efforts to expand its gaming industry.

Illinois gaming Chicago casino
The head of the Illinois Gaming Board wants to make sure residents have trust in the agency, as casinos spread to Chicago and elsewhere in the state. (Image: Wikipedia)

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) signed a $45 billion infrastructure bill in June. The legislation is partly funded by authorizing five new regional casinos – one each in Waukegan, Rockford, South Suburbs, Williamson County, and Danville – plus a larger integrated resort in Chicago.

We are facing a large expansion of the gaming industry in the state. Let us remember that the goal of this expansion was threefold: assisting economic development, promoting Illinois tourism, and increasing state and local government revenues,” Schmadeke said during a meeting last week.

He added, “Maintaining that confidence must undergird everything we do. Achieving and preserving the integrity of the gaming industry and Illinois will be at the heart of my tenure on this board.”

Pritzker appointed Schmadeke to the position in late July.

Windy City Headwinds

The Illinois Gaming Board is made up of five members, plus a supporting staff of 35 employees who work in three departments – video gaming operations, casino operations, and investigations.

Schmadeke’s agency currently presides over the state’s 10 existing riverboats and their nearly 32,000 gaming positions. The board is now tasked with licensing six new casinos, designating a “racino” in the south suburbs, and signing off on additional gaming positions at the present riverboats.

The agency has long claimed to be underfunded and over-tasked. Schmadeke says maintaining public trust is paramount for the board as it makes critical decisions in the months ahead. “In ordinary times, our work would be challenging, but these are not ordinary times,” the chairman concluded.

Along with the new gaming properties, the board will regulate sports betting throughout the state. Illinois has approved both online and in-person sports betting, and a sportsbook could be on the way for Wrigley Field, the iconic home of baseball’s Cubs.

Chicago Progress

Union Gaming, a Las Vegas-based analytical firm focused on casino operations, is expected to release its feasibility study on potential locations for the casino project earmarked for Chicago.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) has proposed five locations, all of which are in downtrodden areas. She campaigned on a commitment to revitalize neighborhoods where poverty is widespread and violence and crime are far too common.

Union Gaming has been given an August 12 (today) deadline to furnish its study to the city and state lawmakers. Chicago is paying for the review, which is expected to cost $100,000.

There is plenty of opposition to Lightfoot’s proposed sites, even though the casino could eventually be approved elsewhere. Critics say casinos shouldn’t be viewed as neighborhood builders, as they are typically designed to be all-encompassing venues that seek to keep patrons inside.

Casinos aren’t a neighborhood revitalization tool,” a Chicago Sun-Times op-ed read recently. “If you put a casino in some down-and-out location hoping to spark a revival, you’re kidding yourself. Casinos don’t bring vitality to an urban area.”

The Illinois Gaming Board says it will likely begin accepting proposals for the integrated casino resort in November.