Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Throws Support Behind Proposed Chicago Casino Project

Posted on: May 7, 2019, 02:32h. 

Last updated on: May 7, 2019, 06:05h.

Michael Madigan — the Illinois House Speaker once called “more Machiavellian than Machiavelli” by imprisoned former governor Rod Blagojevich — has announced he’s prepared to support a new casino in Chicago, the third-largest US city.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan supports the idea of a Chicago casino to help balance the state budget, joining outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in doing so. (Image: Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune

Madigan said the idea of a casino in Chicago could go two ways. “It can be city-owned, or it can be like the other [privately held] casinos,” he told The State Journal-Register. “That’s something that would be resolved here in the legislature.”

The speaker echoes sentiments expressed in December by now-outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who will be replaced with Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot on May 26.

Searching For Cash

Cash-strapped Illinois is considering several measures to generate revenue in an effort to bolster state coffers, including legalizing recreational marijuana use. Gov. J.B. Pritzker estimates the Prairie State is facing a budget shortfall of more than $3 billion in its next fiscal year. His office also calculates a backlog of $15 billion of unpaid debt for Illinois.

Earlier this year, multiple proposals were filed by Illinois lawmakers to make the state the first in the Midwest to legalize sports betting. A proposal filed in March would allow Illinois racetracks and riverboat casinos to offer sports betting after operators pay a $10 million licensing fee.

That proposal, if it becomes law, would collect 15 percent of gross adjusted receipts from physical sportsbook locations and 20 percent of gross adjusted receipts from online applications.

Currently, Illinois is home to 10 riverboat and brick-and-mortar casinos. In April, the state’s casinos had adjusted gross receipts of $114.76 million on a combined basis, according to the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB).

Last month, Illinois riverboat casinos attracted more than 837,000 visitors with more than a quarter going to the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.

Sporting Directions

As is the case with issue of a new Chicago casino, Madigan sees the sports betting issue potentially going in multiple directions.

“You can go in one of two directions; you could have a sports betting bill that only deals with sports betting, or you can have one that deals with sports betting plus the other issues,” reports The Courier.

Madigan’s support for a new Chicago casino is pivotal. The Chicago Democrat is one of the most powerful politicians in Illinois and has been speaker of the Illinois House Representatives for all but two years since 1983, making him the longest-serving leader of any federal or state legislative body in U.S. history.

Previous legislative efforts by the Illinois senate to open more casinos in the state were quashed by Madigan, but the speaker’s change of heart on the issue coupled with a new mayor in Chicago could open the door to casino expansion around the Windy City.

Several of the states bordering Illinois — including Indiana, Michigan, and Missouri — have casinos, and some politicians in the state estimate it loses over $1 billion in entertainment revenue annually because gamblers there frequently visit casinos in neighboring locales.

Pot O’ Gold?

In addition to mulling sports betting and the possibilities of a new Chicago casino, Illinois lawmakers are also considering legislation to legalize recreational cannabis to generate more revenue.

While many of the states that have legalize recreational marijuana, such as California, Oregon and Washington, are “deep blue” states like Illinois, Madigan told local reporters in Illinois that the issue of legalizing marijuana there could be controversial and currently lacks universal support among the state’s elected Democrats.