Illinois Sports Betting, Chicago Casino Proposal Move Forward after Legislative Compromise
Posted on: June 3, 2019, 08:34h.
Last updated on: June 3, 2019, 08:42h.
The land of Lincoln will likely authorize betting on athletics and a gaming venue in Chicago after the state’s General Assembly this weekend approved a far-reaching gambling bill that is expected to be signed soon by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Under the legislation, sports wagering licenses could be given to current and new casinos, in addition to athletic venues and racetracks. License fees would range from $3.2 million to $10 million.
When it comes to large venues, like Wrigley Field, which have more than 17,000 seats, operators can apply for a four-year license to provide wagering within five blocks of the property. Limited online sports betting will be implemented after an 18-month delay, under the proposal.
Some details of the final bill were hotly debated. But after last-minute compromises, the Illinois House approved the bill 87-27, while the Senate approved it 46-10.
Chicago Airport Gambling
Whichever company is selected to operate the planned Chicago venue, it will also be given slot machines at O’Hare International and Midway airports. By locating machines at these busy hubs, the state can tap into the large number of tourists and other passengers who stop off daily at the terminals located in the third largest city in the US.
So far, it is unknown where the planned casino in the Windy City will be located. Possible sites include McCormick Place, the former Michael Reese Hospital and the former main Post Office building, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Revenue from the Chicago gaming venue will be divided in thirds among the city, state and the private owner. Five other Illinois cities could get new casinos, too, beyond the state’s current 10 gaming venues.
Under the bill, existing casinos will be able to up the number of slot machines and table games by about 70 percent, according to Bloomberg News. Slot machines also can be added to the state’s many truck stops.
Also, three current horse tracks can offer patrons slot machines and table games, under the legislation. The bill further increases the number of allowed video gaming terminals from five to six at each gaming location.
Pritzker praised the final bill and noted how many earlier attempts failed. He added that the bill will keep more gamblers in the state rather than having them go to neighboring locations.
When commenting on the bill, Michael Wenz, an associate professor of economics at Northeastern Illinois University, called it “a massive expansion of casino gambling in Illinois.”
This will allow for the creation of sports books at the casinos and race tracks out of the gate, with three online licenses to come after an 18-month waiting period,” Wenz told Casino.org.
Wenz explained the waiting period slows down “the ability of daily fantasy sports games to get involved, or at least to force them to partner with existing casino interests early on.”
Existing gaming operators will find that they may benefit from other parts of the legislation, too. “The incumbents were given quite a bit in this bill, including the 18-month delay in fully online sports wagering and increases in positions in casinos, racetracks and video gaming parlors,” Wenz said.
On the other hand, he explained that sports leagues were “notably cut out of the bill, though the bill does allow for gambling at professional sports stadiums.”
Wenz also questioned whether the new Chicago casino will lead to economic development because it tends to be “largest for casinos located … where there is not much activity in the first place.… In more urban areas, casinos tend to replace other things like restaurants and theaters.”
More Tax Revenue for Chicago, Illinois
But he predicts a casino in Chicago casino will “generate lots of new tax revenue. The proposed venue allows for “4,000 gaming positions, making it the largest in Illinois and one of the largest in the country.”
Under the bill, gross revenue from sports betting will be taxed at 15 percent across most of Illinois. The tax rate will be 17 percent in Cook County, which includes Chicago, Frank Manzo IV, policy director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, told Casino.org.
However, there are risks for the gaming market to become saturated. Concerns exist too over the bill’s impact on economically vulnerable communities.
“Revenues and taxes from casinos in Illinois have been flat-to-declining over the last five years,” Wenz noted. “Between the Chicago casino, gambling at racetracks and five other new casinos, this will put pressure on existing casinos and casino revenues.”
Based on his review of the bill, Cory Aronovitz, an Illinois gaming attorney, raised the issue about the lottery being at a “competitive disadvantage.”
“The disparate treatment of the lottery and the new definition of a truck stop could lead to challenges of the law,” he told Casino.org.
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