State Roundup: Gambling expansion hearing highlights two possible bills

From Illinois News Network
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Members of the Illinois House are discussing expanding gambling operations. The House Executive Committee met Monday morning in Chicago as State Representative Bob Rita pushes to bring gaming expansion to the state with several bills.

The Blue Island Democrat brought industry experts to discuss the state of gaming outside of Illinois. A second hearing scheduled next week will focus on tourism and other economic benefits of expanding gaming.

Big Chicago casino would be draw, but could impact current gaming in state

A large casino in Chicago would have a large draw, not only for gamblers but also for a host of other businesses like retail, restaurants and convention space, but it could also impact the state’s current gaming operations.

Joseph Weinert, Executive Vice President of Spectrum Gaming Group, said if a proposed Chicago casino with 10,000 gaming positions were to move forward, there would be huge potential to make the Windy City a gambling destination with the world’s largest casino.

“It requires so many more amenities to support that. You couldn’t simply put 6,000 slot machines and 500 tables in a casino with nothing else. This, by definition with many gaming position, would be a major draw and it would dwarf anything else in Chicagoland.”

However, Weinert says the expanded gambling operation could also impact Illinois current gaming operations–something he says is evident for casino operations impacted by video gaming machines throughout the state. Weinert suggests the state continue investigating retail video gaming operations under current state law before moving forward with increasing gambling operations. One of several bills in the General assembly from Representative Rita would create a large casino in Chicago with revenue shared around the state.

Slots at race tracks increases gaming revenue in Pennsylvania

It’s a mixed bag for gaming revenue trends in Illinois and around the country. That’s the message from Illinois’ Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. Dan Long, the Executive Director of the bipartisan COGFA, says adjusted gross revenues for Illinois’ ten casinos are down 5.6 percent from last year, but up 2.5 percent over five years while Chicago’s four casinos are down 30.6 percent over the last five years, something Long attributes to the creation of the Des Plaines casino in 2011. Gaming revenues in neighboring states are also down. However Long says gaming receipts have exploded in Pennsylvania where six of twelve are casinos with race tracks. Shawn Bailey, with Churchill Downs Incorporated, says that has increased prospects in Pennsylvania.

“Since they’ve instituted casino gaming and fueled purses with those dollars it’s not only led to gaming improvements but it’s also led to more people betting on Pennsylvania races because they’re more attractive betting products.”

Bailey says the horse racing industry in Illinois would benefit by allowing slot machines at race tracks. Meanwhile in Illinois COGFA Senior Revenue Analyst Eric Noggle says two bills expanding gambling in the state would each increase revenue for the state by more than 400 million dollars. Another bill from Representative Rita would allow for several casinos throughout the state with slot machines at race tracks. CBS Chicago reports Governor Bruce Rauner is open to expanding gambling in Chicago but has reservations about the social impacts of increased gambling.

Judge: No more solitary confinement for juveniles

No more solitary confinement to punish juveniles in most cases–that’s after a federal judge in Chicago approved new rules barring the practice in Illinois. The Chicago Sun Times reports the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice negotiated the policy change with the OK given by the judge in late April. Court-appointed monitors will oversee the implementation. The change doesn’t remove solitary confinement altogether, it could still be permitted if a detainee is deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Medical cannabis: PTSD, Irritable bowel syndrome in, anxiety and diabetes out

Those looking to use medical cannabis to ease anxiety or help with their diabetes will have to look elsewhere after the state’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Board voted against recommending the Illinois Department of Public Health include the conditions as qualifying conditions. However, the Chicago Tribune reports the panel did vote to recommend the drug for irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and migraines. The Board also voted to recommend osteoarthritis and two forms of nerve damage, but not diabetes. Currently there are several dozen conditions that allow qualifying patients to use medical marijuana approved by the IDPH, if they go through the litany of requirements to get a medical cannabis card from the state. More than 2,000 medical cannabis card holders are still waiting for the first product from the state approved dispensaries.

Buchen named to manage both Illinois State Fairs

There’s a new director for the Illinois State Fair. Patrick Buchen was selected by Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Philip Nelson Monday to take over operations of the annual agriculture exposition. Though an Illinois native, Buchen previously served as the Executive Director of Indiana’s State Fair. A press release from Nelson says Buchen has a track record of boosting revenues while trimming unproductive expenditures. Buchen will manage not just the Fair in Springfield, but also the fair in DuQuoin. Previous Illinois News Network investigations highlighted the two state fairs losing over $71 million over the last 20 years while being a bastion of political patronage.

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