Despite a new report that showed the state’s casinos generated less revenue and had 6 percent fewer visitors than the year before, one state senator said he’s ready for more gambling options to go live in Illinois.
The Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability reported overall gambling revenue increased 3.5 percent overall to $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2019 compared to the previous year, but casinos sent the state 3.3 percent less revenue over that period and visitors to casinos declined 5.9 percent, according to the report.
“These declines at the existing casinos may be exacerbated due to the significant increase in competition soon to come from new Illinois casinos, racinos, and from new casinos in nearby states,” the report said.
Regardless, state Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said he’s ready for work to begin on the six new casinos lawmakers approved. He said they’ll compete with casino plans in neighboring states.
“If we don’t put our own casinos in as a defensive mode, you’re going to see the amount of dollars leaving the state growing at even a faster rate,” Syverson said.
The six new casinos will be in Rockford, Danville, Waukegan, Williamson County, the south suburbs of Cook County and one in Chicago.
A mandated feasibility study for the Chicago casino that was published this summer, 10 days later than it was supposed to be, concluded that the tax rates were too high to attract private investment.
Syverson said the Union Gaming Analytics study was flawed.
“They studied five locations,” Syverson said. “Those five locations were all terrible locations for a casino.”
He said Las Vegas-based Union Gaming Analytics should have studied putting the casino at McCormick Place, which has a lot of convention traffic.
The Illinois Gaming Board this week urged the General Assembly to modify the terms for a Chicago casino based on the conclusions of the feasibility study.
Syverson said because the gambling expansion will help fund a six-year $45 billion infrastructure plan, giving Chicago a better casino deal would hurt the rest of the state’s infrastructure investment.
“They’re already getting a better deal, which is not fair, but to change that and give them even a fairer deal is going to hurt every community in the state,” Syverson said.
Syverson said if Chicago officials want to change how the city will benefit from the casino, such as reducing how much tax revenue will go to pay for city pensions, so be it, but the rest of the state shouldn’t be punished.
Lawmakers also approved expanding video gambling throughout the state, but Syverson said he was frustrated at the pace of implementing those changes.
“Every month that we delay is hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue both to the state and the local government,” he said.
The Illinois Gaming Board this week said it was 90 percent of the way through finalizing rules to expand video gambling. The public comment period for rules for sports wagering is set to close Sept. 27.
Other rules concerning racinos, race tracks that have table games and video gambling, have also been filed.