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Illinois to legalize sports betting, add casinos

By Bob Bong and Joe Boyle

The gaming landscape in the south and southwest suburbs will be changing dramatically now that the Legislature has approved a massive gambling expansion bill.

One of the biggest changes in Senate Bill 690 is the ability to bet on sports, including the Bears, Cubs, Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks. College teams based in Illinois will be off-limits, however.

Betting will be allowed in person at casinos, race tracks and sports facilities that seat more than 17,000 people, such as Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the White Sox. Online betting will be allowed if the operator partners with a brick-and-mortar location.

A pilot program will also assess sports betting through the Illinois Lottery.

The maximum number of gaming machines at video gaming cafes, bars, restaurants and gas stations with climb from five to six and the maximum bet will double from $2 to $4.

Those same machines will also be allowed at Midway and O’Hare airports.

Hawthorne Race Course in Cicero will be allowed to become a so-called “racino” with video machines and table games as well as horse betting.

A new land-based casino will be coming to Chicago as well as the south suburbs, in either Bloom, Bremen, Calumet, Rich, Thornton or Worth townships.

State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th), whose district includes Evergreen Park, Chicago Ridge, Oak Lawn, Palos Hills and Worth, voted Sunday for a gaming expansion package that includes a new casino in Chicago to bolster economic activity in the region and help bring stability to the city’s finances.

“The introduction of a casino in Chicago will introduce 4,000 new jobs to the city and be a major economic booster for the entire region,” said Cunningham, who said that will include the southwest suburbs. “This is a big win for the greater Chicago area. This plan isn’t just freeing up money for us to use at our discretion, we’ve made sure that any money from a new casino will be used in a fiscally responsible way,” Cunningham added.

State Sen. Terry Link (D-Indian Creek,) the chief sponsor of the measure, estimated that the state could net more than $12 billion within the next six years from the provisions in the bill.

That includes revenue from new and higher gambling taxes as well as substantial licensing fees. Sports betting licenses will range from $3.2 million to $10 million for casinos and race tracks; $10 million for sports facilities; $20 million for online sports better operators such as FanDuel and DraftKings.

Revenues raised from the new casinos, the selling of sports betting licenses, and a higher tax on video gambling machines would go toward funding the vertical components of a long-term capital infrastructure plan, such as state building renovations.

The state will also add $6 million for problem gambling initiatives under the new law.

“Legalized sports betting and expanding gaming will create jobs up and down the state, …where communities hungry for employment will see 10,000 new jobs,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has promised to sign the bill, said. “Gaming expansions in this state have been attempted and failed for years. … Today is a win for the whole state.”

Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.

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