WNIJ News Series

Susan Stephens

The City of Rockford has a new casino in the works, and officials will soon evaluate possible sites and construction plans.

State government is granting six new casino licenses as part of the gambling expansion bill signed in May.  One of these is for Rockford, and city government is currently accepting proposals. Mayor Tom McNamara says the proposals include details such as where the casino will be built, and how it will run.

"SPORTS BETS" BY FLICKR USER THOMAS SCHLOSSER / (CC x 2.0)

Legalized sports betting will soon come to Illinois as part of the state's new gambling expansion law.

Sports wagering is nothing new. But in the U.S., the practice has generally been illegal outside of a few specific venues. That changed last year when the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. It allows states to legalize sports betting.

In Illinois, there are several companies eager to enter the market. But casinos lobbied hard against allowing them unfettered access. State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) explains.

Housing Woes: What Does Resolution Look Like?

Aug 2, 2019
Sarah Jesmer

For the last few weeks, we've been looking at housing problems in the DeKalb area. What does resolution look like as the community works to revitalize struggling neighborhoods?

 

DeKalb community members have been considering housing conditions when some local buildings were damaged during suspected arsons. 

 

One of these cases occurred at 808 Ridge Drive in early July. 

 

Chase Cavanaugh

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill at the end of June that allows six new casinos and legalizes sports betting. Rockford is the site of one such casino, and it could significantly contribute to local and state revenue.

A comprehensive gambling bill has been a repeated priority in the state legislature for several years. One of its biggest supporters has been Republican State Sen. Dave Syverson. He says a major concern is gambling dollars being lost to surrounding states. 

Chase Cavanaugh

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker visited Rockford Monday morning to mark the start of the process toward building a new casino in the area.

Organizers handed out playing cards and poker chips that read "J.B. Bet On Us" and "Our Governor Is Aces." A bill he signed last week allows for 6 new casinos statewide, mostly in cities near the Illinois border. Pritzker said casino revenue is a key component of his capital plan:

Chase Cavanaugh

Rockford is moving ahead with its plans to build a casino after Governor J.B. Pritzker signed an expanded gambling bill into law Friday.

Mayor Tom McNamara says the city has 120 days from the bill’s signing to submit applications for the casino’s location and operator to the Illinois Gaming Board.  McNamara says the city is working to get its Request for Proposals out by July 4th.

“If we can get it out by Monday, that would be even more spectacular. But it’s a tight timeframe," he said. "A lot of work needs to go into this, obviously, because you’ve got one shot at this.”

The Illinois House has sent Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker another victory by voting to legalize recreational marijuana use.

The 66-47 tally Friday would allow those 21 and older to buy marijuana at licensed dispensaries beginning next year. Residents could possess up to one ounce (30 grams) and non-residents could have 15 grams.

Pritzker called for legalization in his campaign for governor. He has pledged to sign the law.

flickr/dankdepot

Restrictions on home cultivation have helped marijuana legalization win Illinois Senate approval.

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 38-17 Wednesday to allow recreational use of marijuana like 10 other states. The Illinois proposal allows those 21 and older to have up to one ounce.

Chicago Democratic Sen. Heather Steans originally proposed allowing anyone to keep five plants in their homes. Steans' final version allows only the 65,000 Illinois patients qualified for the medical-cannabis law to grow their own.

Guy Stephens

Rockford’s mayor sent an open letter to Chicago’s mayor-elect asking her to join a push to add casinos in both their cities.

The letter to Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot was published as a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times newspapers. It was signed by Mayor Tom McNamara and Rockford Chamber President Einar Forsman. McNamara said the two cities -- and other Illinois border cities -- have a lot in common. That includes wanting to tap into money that now goes to casinos out-of-state.

Proposed plans for legalizing recreational marijuana in Illinois shifted from "when" to "how."

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is on board. So are state Sen. Heather Stains and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy. Their plan would allow Illinois residents to purchase and possess 30 grams of cannabis for recreational use. Non-residents would be allowed to have half this amount.

Is There A Future For Recreational Pot In Illinois?

Oct 19, 2018
Sarah Jesmer

Canada recently became the largest country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana. Lines of customers looking to buy government regulated cannabis stretched for blocks. Clive Moore is a student at Concordia University in Montreal. He says he didn't expect the law to become a reality.                   

"It seems, ridiculous, it's just one of those things we just asked the government for repeatedly, and eventually they each caved in and gave it to us," said Moore.

Jennifer Brdlik / Elevated Care

Medical marijuana use is up more than 80% in Illinois, with PTSD as the most common condition treated, according to a report by the state Department of Public Health.

More than 46,000 people have used medical marijuana in Illinois this year, The Chicago Tribune reported. Almost 75% of patients are older than 40.

Photo by Victoria Lunacek

In Oregon, Illinois, an old farmhouse just outside of town is a hotbed of alternative energy. It's primarily heated by wood and they have a wind generator, although it’s mainly used for educational purposes.

Keep exploring and you’ll find a solar panel array sitting on the roof of a barn in front of the house, and a newer set on the other side of the yard with a small pasture nestled in the middle, usually home to a few animals.

Victoria Lunacek/WNIJ

Nuclear energy has a significant presence in Illinois, with 11 reactors spread across six plants. Together, they provide about 11.8 gigawatts of power to the entire state. That's enough for millions of homes -- or, as any "Back to the Future" fan knows, almost ten DeLorean time machines.

Peter Medlin

Solar power has been used here and there in Illinois for a long time. But now the state is going for it in a big way. 

In the 19th Century, scientists discovered that you could generate electricity directly from sunlight when you arrange certain elements in a particular way. In the 1950s, scientists at Bell Labs took an element they were using to develop the first transistors – silicon – to create the photovoltaic, or PV, cells that we know today. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Illinois is only seven years away from its deadline for getting 25% of the state’s energy from renewable sources. Wind power will have to play a big part to reach that ambitious goal. The state ranks 6th in the nation for the number of wind turbines, at more than 2,600. These wind farms are generally located in rural areas, many on active farms where people are raising corn and soybeans. The wind becomes a third crop that can be “harvested” year-round, giving the farmer a steady rental income.

What Is Feeding The Grid?

Sep 17, 2018
Carl Nelson/Spencer Tritt

Wind, solar, and nuclear are some of the energy options available to Illinois consumers. This week on Morning Edition, the WNIJ news team explores how these affect the quality of life in northern Illinois in 2018 and beyond.

Wind: The "Third Crop"

Wind is sometimes called the "third crop" by farmers.

Reporter Susan Stephens has been following the development of wind farms in northern Illinois. She says the term is used because so often the turbines are placed on farms.

Andrew Villegas/WFYI

Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed a law requiring public schools to allow parents to administer medical marijuana at school to eligible children.

 

The Republican took action Wednesday. It allows parents or guardians to administer a "cannabis-infused product" to a student on school property or a school bus if both parent and child have been cleared by the state's medical marijuana law.

LUKE RUNYON/HARVEST PUBLIC MEDIA

Illinois lawmakers approved legisltation that would allow farmers to grow industrial hemp. Hemp is derived from the cannabis plant, but it has a non-drug use. It can create bio-degradable building materials, paper, textiles and more.

The Cunningham Group

Rockford area officials have sought a casino for decades as a way to help deal with economic problems. And even with a casino looking to open just over the border in Wisconsin, they still feel that way. In this Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Guy Stephens looks at the area’s casino craving.

State Sen. Dave Syverson has been pushing for a Rockford casino for years. The Rockford Republican says casinos were started in Illinois to keep money from leaving the state, and that continues to be a big issue. 

Andrew Villegas/WFYI

Kids who use medical marijuana for a qualifying condition might be allowed to use the drug on school grounds under a new proposal. The legislation would allow parents to give cannabis medication to those kids if and when they need it. 

Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, said about 250 kids around the state use cannabis-oil patches to treat a range of conditions from epilepsy to cancer. Although medical marijuana has been legal in Illinois since 2013, Lang said the drug is still banned in schools no matter what.

Andrew Villegas/WFYI

Across the country, states desperate to prevent opioid addiction are considering medical cannabis as a solution.

Carlos Manzano Photos / CC BY-SA 3.0

The push continues to legalize recreational marijuana in Illinois. This time, support comes from a travel expert who wants to see the state adopt the European approach to cannabis.

flickr/dankdepot

The head of the Colorado Department of Revenue has spoken to a panel of Illinois lawmakers considering a proposal to legalize marijuana in the state.

Barbara Brohl, the department executive director, told Illinois lawmakers at a hearing Wednesday that she believes the legal market for marijuana is eating into the black market, funding drug abuse treatment and prevention, and providing a safer product, the Chicago Tribune reports.

flickr user Brett Levin "LEGAL Colorado Marijuana Grow" (CC BY 2.0) / http://bit.ly/1F0o4DW

Illinois' medical marijuana companies, operating in an industry abounding with rules, now have one less regulation they have to follow.

The Chicago Tribune reports that a federal judge ruled last week that a provision preventing cannabis companies from making campaign contributions in Illinois wasn't constitutional. The ruling was in response to a 2015 lawsuit filed by two Libertarian Party candidates who sought contributions from the medical marijuana industry.

Jennifer Brdlik

Is it marketing or an “awareness campaign?” That’s the question sparked by a company’s upcoming ads for medical marijuana.

Chicago-based Cresco Labs is the BIG player in Illinois’ medical marijuana market. It holds permits for cultivation centers in Joliet, Kankakee, and Lincoln. It’s a big investment for the company…so it’s investing what it says is “seven figures” worth of ads, in print and on radio, social media, and billboards.

Rockford Casino Could Get Caught Up In Larger Battle

May 28, 2015
flickr user Ian Murphy "Solar Casino Night (3)" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois would get five new casinos under Sen. Terry Link's latest proposal. They'd go to Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Lake County and the south suburbs. It could also add so-called "satellite" casinos in places like Decatur.

As with previous proposals, horse race tracks would get be able to get slot machines.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has been open to new casinos. But he's upset that Democrats are killing off his pro-business agenda. Link acknowledges, his effort could get trapped in that feud.

Brian Mackey

An Illinois state representative says gambling expansion is more likely to pass the legislature this month.

That’s after the state Supreme Court struck down a plan last week that deals with Illinois’ $100 billion dollar pension debt.

State Representative Bob Rita says more casinos in Illinois - including Rockford and Chicago - could help raise some much-needed money.

“I would believe now that revenue is more of a need today than it was last week. Here is an area that we could generate revenue, it’s just a matter of how do we get there.”

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

Apr 14, 2015
ilga.gov

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. 

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.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/trawin/ (CC BY-SA 2.0)

More than 360 groups have applied for cultivation center and dispensary permits under Illinois' medical marijuana pilot program, bringing in more than $5 million in fees.

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