The state of Illinois will not see its long-awaited gambling expansion, as legislation that would have allowed the addition of a number of gambling options to the local sector was given thumbs down during a Memorial Day hearing. The proposed bill shelved by the House Executive Committee with 5 to 4 votes yesterday, leaving state lawmakers’ efforts to raise more money for state and local governments fruitless.
Vague hope still remains that the measure could emerge once again this week, considering the fact that local lawmakers are aimed at passing a new state budget by Thursday. However, experts say that odds for this to happen are very small.
If passed by the House Committee, Senate Bill 7 would have added six new casinos to the 10 already existing ones. The new gambling venues were set to be located not only in Chicago but also in Danville, Williamson County in southern Illinois, Rockford, the south suburbs of the state, as well as in Lake County.
What is more, the proposed piece of legislation has been seeking to virtually transform Illinois’ horse race tracks into casino venues, with the south suburbs of the state being aimed at adding a new track as well as slots gaming options at Midway and O’Hare airports. Under the bill, local restaurants and taverns which offer video gaming would be given the chance to add an extra terminal.
Gambling Expansion Bill Aimed at Helping Illinois Economy
Earlier, representatives of the industry have commented that the gambling sector in Illinois desperately needs some help, explaining that the local gambling market has been facing fierce competition from neighboring states.
Supporters of the measure which has been turned down by Illinois House yesterday insisted that the expansion by itself was not so important, saying it was all about economic development. They explained that the desired gambling expansion would have boosted the state’s economy by adding more revenue to the state and shared that new jobs would have been created.
The proposed bill had its opponents, too. Some of the owners of currently existing casinos in Illinois protested the desired gambling expansion, saying that the addition of six more casinos to the state’s gambling sector would only add more competition in the industry, which would eventually harm the current venues’ performance.
As revealed by Tom Swoik, a representative of local casino operators, Illinois casinos have already lost 28% of their annual customer base since video gambling was made legal in 2011. According to estimates, the casino industry is losing approximately 4.5 million customers every year. Mr. Swoik further explained that market saturation and cannibalization are not abstract terms, but real economic concepts which were actually affecting the land-based casino industry in the state of Illinois. He explained that the 6,500 neighborhood locations offering slot machines were among the main reasons for the difficulties that have been faced by Illinois casinos for the time being.