There are many people wondering how the face of gambling will change in Illinois after this spring’s legislative session. The Illinois General Assembly recently passed a law that will change the face of gambling in the state. If the governor signs the legislation, how will gambling change in the state? Here are some ideas.
Current Gambling Offerings in Illinois
Illinois counts its casinos by the number of outlets or positions each one has. For example, if the casino has 1,200 gambling positions, the casino is a combination of slots and table games. For example, the Hollywood Casino in Joliet has 25 different table games. These games include craps, blackjack, poker, and roulette. The casino also has 1,175 slot machines. Both of these offerings together add up to 1,200 positions.
There are currently 10 casinos scattered all over Illinois. There are casinos at the Missouri and Indiana state lines, as well as in southern and northern Illinois. There are no casinos in the Chicago area, however. Currently, there are also no legal sportsbooks in the state. In addition, Illinois has horse racing, dog racing, and off-track betting.
Revenue from Gambling in Illinois
Illinois has seen hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue from gambling. On average, the state collects $300 million in revenue from video gambling terminals (VGTs). It also collects around $400 million from the casinos. Unlike some states, Illinois splits its gambling revenue between the state, the counties, and the cities.
Illinois is already unusual. The gambling landscape looks different than other states that allow gambling. For example, New Jersey has online gambling within its state lines, sportsbooks, casino gambling in Atlantic City, lotteries, and bingo. However, Illinois gets a lot of its income from VGTs. In Illinois, VGTs are responsible for nearly half the gambling revenue. There are nearly 30,000 VGT machines in the state. In counties and townships where gambling is legal, businesses must apply for a license. The state allows them to have up to five VGTs.
The New Legislation
There is a lot of gambling to consider in the new legislation that the General Assembly passed earlier this month. When you break it down piece by piece, the face of gambling is set to change dramatically.
Currently, there are 10 casinos in Illinois. None is a large, grand casino like the ones in other markets across the country. Casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City are much larger. They have floor space in their grand resorts that is more than three times the size of Illinois’ largest casino. However, it isn’t just the two large gambling cities in the East and the West that Illinois has to deal with. Other states also have larger casinos. The land-based casino in New Orleans, Harrah’s, also has square footage that is more than twice that of the Hollywood Casino Joliet. The Hollywood Casino is the largest casino in Illinois. Even in the Midwest, Illinois’ casinos are nothing special. There is a casino in Oklahoma that is 10 times as large as the Hollywood Casino.
With the new law’s passage, however, things could change. As part of the bill, there will be a casino in Chicago. This casino will offer 3.5 times the gaming space of the other casinos in the state. The legislature is allowing any future Chicago casinos to have 4,000 gambling positions. There are currently three large areas being considered for the locations of the Chicago casinos. The old Michael Reese Hospital site used to have a large teaching hospital. Now, it is an empty site on the shores of Lake Michigan. Many people want a casino built here.
Another option the legislature discussed for the Chicago casino is McCormick Place. This location is already home to the biggest convention center in North America. People also like this idea because a land-based casino would only add to the conventions coming into the city. There is room for a casino on the convention center property. An additional location for a Chicago casino is the Old Main Post Office. Built in 1922, the post office is a historical landmark in downtown Chicago. While the building has some tenants, there is room for more. Downtown Chicago is also seen as a prime location.
It doesn’t really matter where the city builds the casino. The state of Illinois clearly wants to build a landmark casino to rival casinos anywhere else in the United States. The legislature felt that a luxurious and large casino will draw more tourists to Chicago.
In addition to the land-based Chicago casino, the legislature approved five additional casino locations. There will be one built in one of Chicago’s southern suburbs, and one each in Waukegan, Rockford, Danville, and Marion. These smaller casinos will split up to 9,200 additional slot machines and table games.
In May 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on sports betting in the United States. It said the states had the right to decide whether they wanted to legalize sports betting. It is not in the purview of the federal government. Since the High Court’s ruling, the race has been on. Several states already have working sportsbooks: New Jersey, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Nevada. Other states have approved the laws to have sportsbooks but do not have any available yet. These states include Arkansas, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., New York, Iowa, Indiana, and Montana. Two Midwestern states that border Illinois already have legalized sports betting. Illinois legislators fear their state is being left behind.
Other Betting Changes
In addition to the casino in Chicago, the new casinos, and additional VGTs, there are other changes. Legislators agreed that both Chicago airports could have slot machines in selected areas. There is not a set number for slot machines at either O’Hare or Midway. The state will also allow horse tracks to have slot machines.
Illinois legislators have said that they are not trying to compete with Las Vegas for casino gambling dollars. That is understandable because Sin City has 10 times the number of slot machines as Illinois. Currently, Illinois has 10 casinos, while Nevada has 215 casinos. It would take decades for Illinois to catch up to the number and scope of casinos in Nevada.
However, Illinois might be gunning to be the gambling capital of the Midwest. This seems like a dream worth pursuing. Currently, Ohio has 11 casinos, Indiana has 13, and Iowa has 19. If Illinois manages to open new casinos in the next five years, it would compete with the other Midwestern states. It is conceivable that, at the end of five years, the state will double its gambling positions to 80,000. This number would dwarf the positions in the other states. Also, the state plans to have 7,000 VGT businesses and 5,000 sports betting kiosks in the next five years. Illinois even wants to open two additional horse tracks at a time when others are closing.
Clearly, Illinois is looking to ramp up its gambling activity to go beyond what the neighboring Midwestern states are offering. Legislators have mentioned that, in the future, they also want to allow gambling online.
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