Both houses of the legislature have passed a bill that would greatly expand legalized gambling throughout the state.
Particular attention has been paid to how it will impact the southern part of Illinois.
Senate Bill 690, which Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he will sign, allows the construction of six new casinos. It also creates a broad swathe of gambling throughout the state by allowing sports betting in large arenas, allows race tracks to become “racinos” with slot machines and games of chance, and expands the number of places where gaming machines can be used.
State Sen. Terry Link, D-Indian Creek, who sponsored the bill, estimated that it will raise $12 billion for Illinois over a six-year period and create as many as 10,000 jobs.
The bill includes a license for a casino in Williamson County.
Walker’s Bluff in rural Carterville will get a license for an on-site casino. The project is expected to generate 1,250 construction jobs, 726 permanent jobs and $15 million in local annual revenue, State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, said in a statement.
“This expansion package recognizes the potential of Walkers Bluff and will be a game changer for Southern Illinois,” Fowler said. “Walker’s Bluff will be a major tourism destination in the region, bringing in thousands of visitors, creating real opportunities within our communities and generating critical revenue for the district.”
Mike Lundy, executive director of the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority, said he wants some of that bounty to spread across his area, which he said has been dealing with competition from nearby Missouri.
“Illinois has had a lot of financial woes over many, many years,” he said.
He said that states that come late to legalized gambling lose revenue as people cross over the border to play the slots and bet on their favorite sports teams.
“I’m hoping [the benefits will be] statewide,” he said, but in his neck of the woods, “We have two of the larger counties across from St. Louis, and we have about half a million or 600,000 people, and we compete against St. Louis. St. Louis has probably six boats over there. Our two boats were the first in the area, and they compete against the draw from the St. Louis area.
“We’re competing against Missouri for jobs and industry and all kinds of things all the time.”
Lundy also said that the racetrack in his part of the state has not been doing well lately, but he said he hopes the addition of slots and table games will give it a boost.