A recent legislative report from Illinois’ General Assembly Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) indicates that gaming expansion in the state may not be the answer to the state’s money problems after all.
Gaming expansion has long been considered by some Illinois lawmakers to be a viable and relatively painless way for the state to generate millions of dollars in new revenue, but the 5.8 percent decrease in state taxes, generated from all forms of gambling, reported in the COGFA’s annual review indicate otherwise. While video gaming expansion has provided residents with more gambling options than they’ve ever had, it’s not sufficient to offset the 2015 fiscal year ending June 30 revenue drop which includes lottery and riverboat casino revenue as well as horse racing. The revenue decrease is the state’s first recorded profit loss since 2009.
The indications of the COGFA report come at the same time Governor Bruce Rauner along with legislators from both parties maintain the likelihood of gaming expansion being a necessary part of any final resolution of the budget impasse. Opposing that view is the executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, Tom Swoik, who believes the information revealed in the report confirms what he has long suspected, that video gaming is not increasing the number of gamblers or revenue in the state, but rather a shifting of dollars from one gambling option to the next, an opinion that is noted in the report.
One example is the Rivers Casino located on the Des Plaines River. Since opening in 2011 the facility has been the most successful of the riverboat casinos operating in the Chicago area, but in addition to business at other riverboat casinos declining, even its numbers have dropped since its peak year in 2012. A fact the COGFA attributes to the same shifting of dollars theory resulting from the cannibalization of other riverboat casinos by the Rivers Casino. The report suggests the same thing could happen to existing casinos if new gaming facilities are introduced.
While the COGFA did not call gaming expansion a bad idea, the bottom line is that new casinos must bring in new gambling revenue showing an actual increase in the state’s tax revenues not just a relocation of monies. The report recognized the downward trend currently being experienced throughout the Midwest gambling sector as a potential pitfall, but that the expansion would provide “a significant amount of one-time revenues (from fees and bidding), creating new jobs and potentially regaining/gaining gaming dollars from out-of-state gamers,” as quoted in a report by the JournalStandard.com.
Governor Rauner hasn’t ruled out gaming expansion as a method of raising additional revenue, but it’s on the backburner until a budget agreement has been reached.