Road map to riches — or ruin?

Take a spin through our map to survey the state’s current gambling scene and where it’s expected to grow. You’ll also find out which Illinois casino inspired a Wilco song and which one was a favorite of a particularly corrupt suburban politician.

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Illinois’ first authorized casino riverboat, the Alton Belle Casino. Now the Argosy Casino Alton, it’s the first to apply for a sports betting license.

Illinois’ first authorized casino riverboat, the Alton Belle Casino, sit along the Mississippi River in Alton, Ill., in 2005. The Alton Belle Casino opened in 1991. Check the Sun-Times casino map to see how it’s doing today. File Photo.

Seth Perlman/AP

Casino developers are racing to meet a Monday deadline to submit applications to the Illinois Gaming Board to be considered for one of the state’s six new casino licenses authorized under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s massive gambling expansion.

Illinois’ 10 existing gambling meccas have chugged a long way from their riverboat origins nearly three decades ago along Illinois waterways, first docking with lawmakers’ blessing and gradually creeping onto land as the state has increasingly relied on gambling tax revenue.

Casino operators have stretched that riverboat definition as far as the law will bend, with most still considered barges — and a few built over shallow pits of water to meet state requirements.

Eager developers are now painting rosy images of vast new entertainment complexes — ones that are now allowed to break ground on land without any aquatic pretenses — costing hundreds of millions of dollars in this latest gaming growth, which Pritzker is banking on to help fund his signature $45 billion capital plan for statewide construction projects.

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The Grand Victoria casino sits along the Fox River in Elgin in 2005. File Photo. .

M. Spencer Green/AP

That’s despite the fact casino admissions and revenues have steadily declined in Illinois over the last decade. And anti-gambling activists are preparing for what they say will lead to a surge in addiction.

Take a spin through our map to survey the state’s current gambling scene and where it’s expected to grow. You’ll also find out which Illinois casino inspired a Wilco song, where one particularly corrupt suburban politician liked to play the slots, how the state’s first casino ended up in last place — and which entertainer wants you to want to go to a casino envisioned for Rockford.

The new law allows for casinos in five specific municipalities — Chicago, Waukegan, Rockford, Danville in eastern Illinois and Downstate Williamson County — plus another casino pegged for a broader area of southern Cook County. Casino developers need approval from the local government to apply to the Gaming Board.

While officials in Danville, Rockford, and Williamson County have all advanced single-site proposals from handpicked developers, Waukegan has approved three competing bids all earmarked for the same site and will leave it up to the Gaming Board to decide. And six different bidders are duking it out with competing sites for the south suburban Cook County casino license.

Work crews prepare the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines for its opening in 2011. File Photo.

Work crews prepare the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines for its opening in 2011. File Photo.

Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

Amidst all that forward movement, the fate of the Chicago casino is up in the air as Mayor Lori Lightfoot goes back to the drawing board with Springfield lawmakers to try to salvage a viable plan. A state-hired consultant deemed taxes too “onerous” for any developer to make a decent profit under the version the Legislature passed in June. The consultant also shot down the five South and West side city sites Lightfoot floated, arguing a downtown location would be more lucrative.

The gambling legislation signed over the summer could eventually more than double the number of places Illinoisans will be able to place a bet. Among other new gambling forays, including yet-to-be-launched legal sports betting, it also allows the state’s horse racetracks to become “racinos” with slot machines and table games, and it increases the number of allowable gaming positions for the state’s 10 existing casinos from 1,200 to 2,000.

The Gaming Board has up to a year to navigate through the casino applications.

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