If the latest budget plan proposed by lawmakers to create revenues for the state stalls, an Illinois state senator said he’s willing to move forward with Senate Bill 7, which would create six new casinos across the state, including one in Chicago.
Part of the Senate’s legislative so-called “grand bargain,” Senate Bill 7 is aimed at righting Illinois’ fiscal ship, which sustained damage resulting from a nearly two-year budget impasse. In addition to the new casinos, the legislation would permit the installation of slot machines at Chicago airports and at four of the state’s horse racing tracks, as well as allowing existing Illinois casinos to expand and add up to 400 seats.
Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, one of the bill’s sponsors, recently said that if the grand bargain dies, lawmakers would separate their bill in an attempt to pass it on its own, according to The State Journal-Register.
The grand bargain did meet with failure at January’s end, but the Senate did support the plan for the casinos. However, the grand bargain is set up in such a way that even with the Senate’s approval, the legislation will not pass unless all of its various parts also pass. Those parts include gambling expansion, pension reform, a nearly $7 billion tax hike for Illinoisans, which includes raising personal and corporate income taxes by 33 percent and expanding sales taxes to include food, drugs, and services; pension reforms, a two-year property tax freeze and more.
Syverson said, “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,” according to the report.
If the legislation is successful, SB7 would authorize licensing in Chicago with locations in Lake County as well as the south suburbs and border cities of Rockford, Danville and Williamson County. The legislation would mark the first-time land-based casinos would be permitted, signaling an end to the riverboat gambling era.
Syverson reportedly said that last year, $1.5 billion left the state and went to casinos in surrounding states, including Indiana, on the Illinois border. He said that the new casinos would help bring that lost revenue back to Illinois. “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,” he said. Syverson added, “It really does two things: One is that it helps bring gaming revenue into Illinois, and it stops the big outflow of people from Illinois going to surrounding states,” according to the news agency.
The bill’s supporters also argue that the addition of the new casinos would result in more than just gambling profits; profits would also come from large conventions that would be hosted by the casinos and their hotels.
Syverson noted that the only opposition to the expanded gambling has been from legislators who didn’t originally support it. The senator views the expansion issue as being noncontroversial and one that can pass in both chambers.
However, Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon and the executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, Anita Bedell, are both opposed to SB 7 and say that the legislation would lead to an increase in crime and social problems in the state.