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Riverboat Gambling Eyes a Move to Dry Land, Sports Teams Backing Sports Betting and Other Quiet Expansions

As part of an ongoing investigation into video gambling and its impact in Illinois, ProPublica Illinois is keeping an eye on broader gambling issues here and around the country. Help us by sending your suggestions and tips to [email protected], or tweet at us at @ProPublicaIL.

1. Momentum is building for expanding gambling in Illinois

State senators quietly passed a bill April 11 that would allow the state’s riverboat casinos to relocate anywhere in Illinois, The Daily Line reports.

  • If the legislation passes the state House and is signed into law, casinos could move to new sites, including on land.

The Argosy Casino riverboat gambling complex on the Mississippi River in Alton, Illinois. (John Badman/The Telegraph via AP)

Chicago’s professional sports teams may support sports betting in Illinois, if they get a piece of the pie.

  • “All of Chicago’s major franchises — with the exception, so far, of the Bears — are backing a plan pushed by Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the PGA that would give professional leagues 25 cents of every $100 bet on their sports in the state,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
  • An Illinois House subcommittee will hold a hearing today in Chicago about legalizing sports betting.

In Central Illinois, video gambling money is “nice to have” but not a significant source of revenue.

  • Bloomington and Normal received a combined $1 million in video gambling revenue last year. That may sound like a big win, but it’s a small percentage of their budgets, WGLT public radio in Bloomington-Normal reports.
  • WGLT also reported on how gambling addiction is one of the often invisible costs of video gambling.

Donald Moffitt, who served as a Republican state representative from Knoxville in northwestern Illinois from 1993 until 2017, voted to legalize video gambling. But now that Illinois could expand it, Moffitt shared his current outlook, according to The Register-Mail in Galesburg:

  • This is beyond anything anyone ever imagined,” Moffitt said of the 30,000 video gambling machines installed across the state since 2012.
  • Illinois should keep gambling addiction in mind: “For most people, this is entertainment. But for some others, gambling is maybe missing a car payment. Or not buying a child shoes.”
  • He expects a “serious fight” over any changes in revenue sharing for local governments: “The bottom line is I would like to see cities get more of the revenue and I trust local governments to spend it wisely ... but I think the fight would be worth it because cities will feel the brunt of gambling.”

2. The video gambling industry, in a new ad campaign, is asking Illinoisans to “Bet on Main Street.”

  • The Bet on Main Street Coalition is an effort pushed by three of the state’s top video gambling companies: Accel Entertainment, J&J Ventures and Tap Room Gaming. The group, which opposes a tax increase on video gambling, recently began placing ads in two political newsletters, Capitol Fax and the Politico Illinois Playbook.
  • It coincides with the Support Main Street Illinois campaign by the Illinois Gaming Machine Operators Association, a video gambling industry group, to block a tax hike.
  • Both groups argue that a tax increase would jeopardize jobs supported by small businesses that have video gambling machines.

The tax rate in Illinois is actually lower than many other places...

Video gambling in Illinois is taxed at 30%, with 25% going to the state and 5% to local governments. In fact, the tax rate is much lower than most other states with video gambling, according to “The Bad Bet” investigative series from ProPublica Illinois and WBEZ. Here’s how other states do it:

  • In West Virginia and South Dakota, video gambling is taxed at 50%.
  • In Oregon, where the state owns and operates video gambling machines through the state lottery, the tax rate is 73%.
  • Pennsylvania, which recently legalized video gambling but hasn’t yet gone live, has set a tax rate of 52%.

The companies that own and operate the machines in Illinois have reaped nearly $2 billion in revenue since video gambling went live in September 2012.

3. Recommended Reading:

Video Gambling Has Exploded in Illinois, but Promises of a Financial Windfall Have Come Up Short

Since Illinois legalized video gambling in 2009, tens of thousands of machines have been installed all over the state, except in communities where local ordinances prohibit them, such as Chicago. By hitting “play” below, you can watch the revenue generated by the machines grow over time and how those revenues failed to meet the projections of legislators.


Note: Revenue figures include accounting corrections as of Dec. 21, 2018. Data Source: Illinois Gaming Board. (David Eads and Katlyn Alo/ProPublica Illinois)

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Portrait of Derrick Clifton

Derrick Clifton

Derrick Clifton is a former communications manager for ProPublica Illinois.

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