How gambling in Illinois might compare to other states

The bill more than doubles the amount of so-called gaming positions statewide — and that doesn’t include sports gambling, which the legislation also authorizes. It also finally delivers on a Chicago casino that promises to dwarf all others in the state.

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It’s unclear based on the gambling bill passed by the Illinois General Assembly over the weekend whether Illinois will become the Nevada of the Midwest.

But this much is clear: The bill more than doubles the amount of so-called gaming positions statewide — and that doesn’t include sports gambling, which the legislation also authorizes.

It also finally delivers on a Chicago casino that promises to dwarf all others in the state. All the bill needs now is the signature of Gov. J.B. Pritzker. And he promised Sunday that Illinois would soon be “leading the Midwest in a new industry” that would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Already, Illinois has 10 casinos overseen by the Illinois Gaming Board. Each touts 1,200 gambling positions, according to Gene O’Shea, who runs the board’s self-exclusion program for problem gamblers. The new Chicago casino approved by the General Assembly would allow for 4,000 additional gambling positions.

It’s not clear where the Chicago casino would be built. Potential sites previously mentioned include the old Michael Reese Hospital, McCormick Place and the Old Main Post Office. The money from the Chicago casino would be split in thirds among the city, state and the private owner.

Meanwhile, additional smaller casinos in the south suburbs, Waukegan, Rockford, Danville and Williamson County could combine for an additional 9,200 positions, bringing the number of gambling positions at casinos to 25,200 statewide.

On top of that, O’Shea said Illinois had 6,851 video gambling locations in April that featured a total of 31,091 machines. The new bill would add to that by enabling legal sports betting and allowing slot machines at horse tracks and O’Hare and Midway airports.

The number of casinos in Illinois would still trail the number in Nevada, by far. The American Gaming Association said Nevada had 215 casinos in 2017. And in 2018, Nevada was home to more than 163,000 slot machines, according to the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

But Illinois could leap-frog other midwestern states like Ohio and Indiana, where the number of casinos in 2017 totaled 11 and 13 respectively, according to the American Gaming Association, while neighboring Iowa has 19 casinos.

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