Gaming Expansion Heads to Governor Quinn, Includes Casino for Danville
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
The Illinois Senate voted 30-27 Tuesday to approve five new casinos, including one in Danville. The others would go to Chicago, Rockford, Lake County and somewhere in the south suburbs.
The measure would also add slots at existing casinos and allow horse racing tracks to have them for the first time in what would be the largest growth in legalized wagering since its introduction in Illinois two decades ago.
The goal of the legislation is to lure gamblers back from other states and raise revenue Illinois. The idea is crucial to Illinois, which has up to $8 billion in unpaid bills, and to the Senate, which rejected a $6 billion plan Sunday to borrow money to cover the obligation, proponents say.
The measure would bring in $1.6 billion in upfront licensing fees and other payments from new casino owners, according to State Senator Terry Link (D-Waukegan). He said all would the money would go toward "paying off old debts."
Continuing new revenue would be $500 million or more annually, including tens of millions of dollars more for schools.
Tom Swoik of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association said existing casinos would lose up to 30 percent of their revenue. He said the revenue estimate is unrealistic because it assumes that current casinos, with 1,200 gambling slots apiece, will all add the 400 spots the legislation allows.
The legislation goes to Gov. Pat Quinn. The Democratic governor has said he is open to a casino in Chicago but opposes four other casinos.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he is pleased the Illinois Senate approved legislation that will allow for a casino in the city. Emanuel said a casino would "energize'' Chicago's economy and create between 7,000 to 10,000 jobs.
Meanwhile, Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer has said a casino would be a huge boost to Danville's economy, bringing in millions of dollars in additional tax revenue and resulting in up to 1,200 permanent jobs. Eisenhauer said if a casino works in Chicago, there is no reason other communities shouldn't get one.