Illinois Eyes Gambling Expansion as Budget Problems Mount

Illinois, like many states across the country, has had a difficult time keeping a balanced budget. No matter how careful state representatives are, it seems as though the state spends more than it brings in year after year. Because of this recurring theme, there has recently been a proposal to expand the scope of gambling in the state in order to boost revenues. While this seems like a simple, logical step, actually getting the scope of gaming expanded is something that will take a lot of time and effort.

For one, those casinos that already exist in Illinois are going to fight it. This is something that happens in any state when the addition of more casinos is considered, and regardless of where the next casinos are built, opposition will exist. Despite the seemingly obvious roadblocks, the Illinois Senate is set to vote on a budget agreement that would set the process of expanding the scope of gambling in motion. Even before the vote takes place, we are already hearing that the first new casino will be located in Springfield.

Grand Bargain Outlines Springfield Casino Plans

Facing a multi-million Dollar budget deficit, Springfield is in dire need of positive cash-flow. Though more than just Springfield is suffering financially, state legislators are beginning to put their eggs in the Springfield basket. Under the deal that is soon to be voted upon, the state will see 6 more casino licenses made available, more games (like slot machines) at horse tracks, and an expansion of the gaming offering at casinos that already exist.

There are casino plans already in the works for Chicago and the surrounding area, as well as plans for Lake and Williamson counties. The addition of a Springfield casino has also been talked about, but not as seriously as those for Chicago and its suburbs.

Facing a Recurring Problem

As was mentioned above, there is no way the idea of new casino licenses will go over without opposition. Those casino operators that already exist in the state are going to argue that adding more casinos is not going to increase revenue, but rather spread thin the revenue that already exists. This is not a new argument and is one that has been attempted to be used in other states, however it is rarely bought into.

With construction jobs, and the hundreds of jobs created by the casinos themselves, there is a significant employment impact that even one new casino would inevitably have.

Opponents will also point to the fact that casino revenues have not exactly been booming in recent history. Since 2007, annual gambling revenues have fallen by more than 25% in Illinois. Moving from more than $2 billion ten years ago, annual revenue last year sat at just $1.4 billion. So while it sounds good that more casinos will inevitably boost the revenue brought in by cities like Springfield, the evidence shows that perhaps the Illinois casino market is already beyond saturated. Despite this, state lawmakers are going to vote on the measure that very well might drastically increase the size of Illinois’ gambling industry.