There's A Good Bet Casinos Will Be On The Table Again

Apr 14, 2015

The possibility of five more Illinois casinos is expected to return this year. 

Supporters of a gambling package say Illinois' need for revenue -- coupled with a governor who appears open to the concept -- have them excited about its chances. 

State Sen. Terry Link
Credit ilga.gov

The package would add casinos in Chicago, the south suburbs, Lake County, Danville and Rockford as well as permitting slot machines at horse race tracks.

State Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, has tried, and tried, to bring more casinos to Illinois.

But even when he was able to get enough legislators on board in recent years, Gov. Pat Quinn put a stop to it.

Now, Link-- who is an asssistant majority leader in the legislature's upper house --  ready to try again. And this time, he says, "I think it has a very good chance."

That's in part because Republican Bruce Rauner is the governor now.

"What we did, right from the beginning, is to make sure what his ‘hot points’ were, so that we're not coming back with addressing this. And, actually,” Link said, “all the things that we had were things that they wanted in this."

He says he's met with Rauner about it and told the governor that casinos could generate as much as $1 billion.

"I mean that's a lot of money that could be used to make ends meet in Illinois without putting a new tax on anybody," Link said.

Link says his plan would have all of the proceeds go to schools this time. He says the question of whether video poker will be permitted at airports -- namely O'Hare -- is still open to discussion.

But current casino owners -- and some fiscal forecasters -- say the market for gambling is already saturated. They say new casinos will only take business from the existing ones, and Illinois won't see a lot of new money to help solve the budget problems.