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More Gambling Controversy in Illinois

The state of Illinois launched sports betting on March 9, after a sports betting bill was signed into law last June. There was plenty of controversy surrounding the law at the time, and it took the state an extremely long time to give out sports betting licenses.

The sports betting industry is currently shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, but gambling controversy remains. This time the issue at stake is the amount of video gambling machines in certain suburbs and the city of Chicago’s reluctance to allow them.

Rolling Meadows is a suburb of Chicago, and video gambling has been a controversial topic of late. Video gambling machines were deemed to be illegal until 2018 when a new law was passed that allowed businesses to offer video gambling.

Alderman Kevin O’Brien is now proposing that the city of Rolling Meadows limit the number of gambling machines that are present, and also restrict where these gambling machines can be offered.

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There are currently 10 businesses in Rolling Meadows that have video gambling machines, and two other locations have applied for a license to get them. Alderman O’Brien believes that there are too many locations with gambling machines now, and he is hoping to get a law passed that will put a limit on the number.

His proposal would also limit strip malls to have just one business that has video gambling machines.

Video gambling was officially legalized in 2009, but many cities or towns chose to opt out at that time. Over the last few years, more cities have allowed video gambling machines as a way to raise revenue for certain projects.

In 2019, there were over 32,000 gambling terminals located throughout the state, and those machines brought in over $478 million in tax revenue. That money was split between state and local governments.

That number is expected to be even larger in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic is keeping businesses from being open, which means that the machines are currently not in use.

Gaming Ban

The city of Chicago has a ban on video gambling terminals, and that is another point of contention between residents and lawmakers. Sweepstakes machines are legal in Chicago, and many businesses choose to offer them.

Sweepstakes machines offer coupons to patrons that win the games, and these coupons can be redeemed for cash or other prizes.

The 2019 expanded gambling laws in Illinois allowed for a large number of new gambling machines to be put in businesses in the state. Chicago has kept their ban, but they are now facing extreme pressure to change this law to help the financial situation in the Windy City.

One of the major reasons that Chicago is holding out is that they are planning to open up a huge casino in the city, and they don’t want any competition from these gambling machines.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is in favor of a large casino coming to the city, and she predicts that the tax revenue would be over $1 billion each year. This casino could offer sports betting under the new laws in Illinois, but the problem is that Illinois also charges large fees to operate a casino or sportsbook in the state.

Chicago has yet to find any company willing to pay the operating costs or the taxes that would be imposed.

The entire casino industry in Illinois has been suffering over the past decade. Total revenue from the 10 casinos located in Illinois has declined for seven straight years, and video gambling machines play a role in that. If Chicago is unable to get a new casino built, then they will likely turn to offering video gambling machines.

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