Illinois legislators have approved a giant gambling-expansion bill that allows sports betting and as many as six new casinos, including one in Chicago, one of the world’s busiest tourism and convention cities.
The legislation, which still must be signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, also lets the state’s 10 existing casinos increase their slot machines and table games by almost 70%. And it allows the state’s three horse tracks to offer slot machines and table games such as blackjack and craps. The ultimate recipient of the Chicago license will also be able to operate slot machines at the city’s O’Hare International and Midway airports.
The legislation also allows for additional slot machines in truck stops throughout the state.
While casino gambling has expanded across the country in the past four decades, it’s rare for a state to do so much all at once. It is very unusual to see a casino authorized in one the country’s largest cities.
“The next step here for the bill is for Gov. Pritzker to sign it, and given he has been supportive of expanded gaming thus far, this is probably a done deal,” Joseph Greff, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said in a note. “Possible litigation can be filed as a way to delay, but it likely won’t derail the bill’s eventuality.”
In neighboring Indiana this year, lawmakers approved legislation that allows for new casinos in Gary and Terre Haute, legalizes sports gambling and moves up the date for live-dealer table games at the state’s two horse-track casinos from 2021 to Jan. 1, 2020.
Majestic Star I and Majestic Star II in Gary would close if the owners moved forward with plans for a new inland casino. If and when that move happens, a license for a Terre Haute casino would be available, bringing the state’s total number of casinos to 13, including the two racinos.
Sports betting could launch in Indiana as soon as Sept. 1, but the Indiana Gaming Commission recently warned that could be delayed.
The Illinois legislation is expected to be a boon for makers of slot machines and suppliers of technology for online betting. It will mean more competition for the state’s existing casinos, including ones operated by Caesars Entertainment Corp., Boyd Gaming Corp., Penn National Gaming Inc. and Eldorado Resorts Inc., which all derive between 10% and 15% of their revenue from Illinois or Indiana, according to John DeCree, an analyst with Union Gaming in Las Vegas.
Shares of slot-machine maker Scientific Games Corp. jumped as much as 9.4% on Monday, while rival International Game Technology rose 5.2%. Penn National fell as much as 5.8% over fears about the mounting competition.
Closely held Rush Street Gaming operates one of the closest casinos to Chicago: the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois. A spokesman declined to comment on the company’s plans. Caesars operates the Horseshoe casino in nearby Hammond, Indiana. A representative there also declined to comment.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who took office in May, praised the bill, saying it would create jobs and “help shore up the city’s seriously underfunded pension funds.’’