IGB Officials Approve New Casino in Illinois
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Despite the recent success of Illinois’ newly acquired sports betting handle, the state has historically been reluctant to legalise and build brick-and-mortar casinos.
A quick glance at this map of Illinois casinos from casinos.us confirms this, with just nine brick-and-mortar establishments currently active and only six of these classed as commercial ventures.
This may be about to change, however, with construction work starting on the first of six new casinos in Rockford. We’ll explore this further below, while asking how this taps into Illinois’ Gambling Expansion bill signed in 2019.
Building a New Temporary Casino in Rockford, Illinois
The recent news has been well-received by pro-gambling lobbyists in Illinois, with the state’s Gaming Board affording developers approval to build a temporary casino in Rockford.
The City mayor confirmed this decision recently, and while more approvals will be necessary before this short-term venue opens, these are considered to be a formality and would leave the city that sits 90 miles west of Chicago will move significantly closer towards opening a permanent Hard Rock Casino.
One of the six casinos that were formally approved in Illinois’ casino expansion bill of 2019 (we’ll touch more on this legislation a little later in the piece), this is the first to begin construction, with Rockford mayor Tom McNamara declaring on the city’s Twitter feed that this represented “a huge accomplishment”.
In a further statement issued by state senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), it was confirmed that construction would start immediately, with the existing site (which was formerly a restaurant and convention centre for the original casino) now undergoing a full renovation that will cost approximately $8 million and ultimately hold more than 600 slot machines.
What’s more, it’s thought that the venue will be ready to open its doors in October 2021, while the early indications suggest that it may remain active for as long as two years.
Senator Syverson, who is a well-known pro-gambling lobbyist, said “I have worked to bring this project to fruition for more than 20 years, knowing that it will have such a positive economic impact locally”. This offers an insight into the potential tax revenue opened by the new casino location, with the information submitted to the IGB highlighting some fairly lucrative payments once the venue is fully up and running.
More specifically, the casino will pay the city at least $7 million each calendar year while it’s open, while making further payments based on the net income of the temporary (and any permanent) establishments.
In fact, the city of Rockford will earn an amount equal to at least 15% of net revenue, and no less than $1.82 million during the initial 12 months of trading.
In subsequent years, the city will bank 5% of net income, but no less than $1.07 million regardless of the venue’s financial performance.
In total, it’s thought that the location will be home to approximately 730 slot machines, while the confirmed temporary setting for the casino is thought to be less than a mile away from the site of the $310 million permanent venue on the east side of town.
Taking a Closer Look at Illinois’ Gambling Expansion Bill
Of course, the state of Illinois passed its long-awaited gaming expansion bill back on June 2nd, 2019, while it’s ongoing rollout will coincide with widespread infrastructure spending nationwide and at a federal level.
Referred to as ‘SB 690’, this piece of legislation will enable the IGB to issue a license for a new casino site in Chicago, Danville, Waukegan, Williamson County and Rockford, along with an additional license for an establishment situated in one of six south suburban Cook County townships (namely Bloom, Bremen, Calumet, Rich, Thornton on Worth Township).
The law will also enable existing Illinois casinos (which currently operate under a limit of 1,200 gambling positions) to expand to approximately 2,000 positions overall.
Horse tracks will also be allowed to feature up to 1,200 seats, boosting potential revenues and profitability in the process.
Perhaps even more importantly, the legislation capitalised on the decision of the US Supreme Court to reverse the controversial PAPSA legislation in May 2018. More specifically, it has effectively legalised sports betting in the state, both online and at Illinois’ most iconic sports venues (present and future).
This has already proved to be highly lucrative for the state, with March of this year seeing the state’s sports betting handle peak at $633.6 million. This eclipsed the previous high of $581.5 million in January 2021, while it represented a marked 24.3% hike in relation to February’s figures of $509.8 million.
The revenue generated in March also contributed heavily to the total sports betting handle in the US, which peaked at over $4.6 billion at the first of the Q1 2021.
All-in-all, these factors have combined to create a lucrative and fast-growing gambling market in Illinois, with both on and offline channels thriving as 2021 continues at pace.