Last week, Illinois lawmakers passed legislation that is going to drastically expand the gambling and casino industry in the state. In addition to legalizing sports betting, the legislation will allow for up to six new casinos to be built, including one in Chicago. As it stands, Illinois is home to 10 casinos, but before long the state will become the Midwest’s premier gambling destination.
This bill is similar to many other gambling expansion bills we have seen across the country, but at the same time it is very different. The major difference between Illinois and most other states is with regard to just how much the gambling industry is being expanded. While most other jurisdictions move forward slowly and cautiously, Illinois is going all-in.
We have seen plenty of other states expand their gambling industries, but few have made strides as large as those we are seeing in Illinois. Before going any further, it is important to note that Governor JB Pritzker has not yet signed the bill into law, however it is widely believed that he will. Analyst Joseph Greff, of JP Morgan, commented on this by saying, “The next step here for the bill is for Governor Pritzker to sign it, and given he has been supportive of expanded gaming thus far, this is probably a done deal.”
The state of Illinois will see up to six more casinos built, but the ten casinos that already exist are also going to see some changes. For one, the existing establishments are able to increase the quantity of slot and table games on offer by up to 70%, according to Bloomberg. What’s more, the three horse tracks in Illinois will be allowed to offer slots and table games such as blackjack and roulette. This bit of the legislation is important because Illinois’ horse racing industry, like many others across the country, has been struggling for years. By creating a casino atmosphere at these struggling tracks, it is widely believed that badly-needed revenue will come streaming in.
The piece of the legislation that allows for a casino to be built in Chicago is also very interesting. The reason for this is due to the fact that the eventual license-holder of the Chicago casino will also be able to offer slot games at both of Chicago’s major airports—O’Hare and Midway.
It may seem like we glossed over it up to this point, but in the midst of all of this expansion the fact that sports betting was legalized in Illinois is something worth mentioning. Just like every other aspect of this 800+ page bill, the part that focuses on sports betting takes things to an extreme we have yet to see. Not only will there be full-fledged sportsbooks at the state’s casinos and racetracks, there will be thousands of sports betting kiosks located everywhere state lottery tickets are available.
It may seem like Illinois is making way for every form of gambling under the sun, such is not actually the case. Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) operators such as DraftKings and FanDuel will have to wait a year and a half before they will be considered for a license from the state’s gaming commission. This move was a punitive measure of sorts in order to get back at the two operators for operating in the state without a license; something that has gone on for years now.
All things considered, it seems as though Illinois went from a decent state for casino-goers and gamblers to one of the top states in the country for gambling in a matter of days. Perhaps what is most shocking of all is the fact that there was very little vocal opposition to this bill. In other states, we see all sorts of special interest fighting tooth and nail in order to prevent any sort of gambling expansion, but not in Illinois. For proponents of gambling this is great news, but opponents are doing everything they can to prevent this bill from being signed into law; something that seems inevitable at this point.