Vote on Illinois gambling expansion delayed; Springfield casino add still possible

The expansion of gambling was among the issues that did not get called up for vote in the Illinois General Assembly prior to the spring session deadline on Wednesday.

According to the State Journal-Register, Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, who is the principal House sponsor of the gaming expansion bill, said she would not call the bill up for vote on the last day of the spring session on May 31, 2017. The end result of which will likely be a return to a summer overtime session.

In a 33-24 vote last month, the Illinois Senate passed Senate Bill 7, which would allow the state to license up to six casinos across the state, including one in Chicago. If the legislation is successful, SB7 would authorize licensing in Chicago with locations in Lake County as well as the south suburbs and border cities of Rockford, Danville and Williamson County. The legislation would mark the first-time land-based casinos would be permitted, signaling an end to the riverboat gambling era. Presently, the state only allows riverboat gambling and pari-mutuel betting on horse racing.

Springfield wasn’t part of the original bill, however, just over a week after the Senate victory, leaders for the city of Springfield, including Mayor Jim Langfelder and eight of the ten aldermen on the Springfield City Council, reportedly 7BALL sent a letter to members of the Illinois House of Representatives, Illinois State Senate, and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, requesting the right to host a gambling venue with up to 900 gaming positions.

Mayfield reportedly said the measure approved by the Senate is in need of further changes before it goes to vote in the House.

Over the weekend prospects looked bleak for a Springfield license when an amendment to add it was introduced by Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield and subsequently blocked by a House committee. So the delay could be good news.

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However, the State Journal-Register reports that Mayfield said that if legislators representing Springfield establish a consensus, the additional license could be included. Mayfield reportedly said, “Until they’re all on the same page, we can’t add them to the bill.”

Springfield developer and lobbyist, Chris Stone, who was responsible for introducing the idea of a downtown casino, reportedly said the effort to ensure Springfield is part of the discussion moving forward, has been successful so far.

Stone reportedly estimates that a casino with 900 positions would generate approximately $25 million a year in tax revenue; money that could be used for upgrades and repairs to school facilities, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and the state fairgrounds, according to the news agency.