SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois House on Saturday pushed through a monstrous expansion of legalized gambling in the state that includes a casino in Rockford.
The measure also OKs legalized betting on sporting events for the first time.
The House voted 87-27 to approve the plan. The Illinois Senate is expected to vote on the bill on Sunday, according to Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford. Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker has said he will sign it.
State Reps. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, and Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, voted against the bill. Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, supported it.
“The House has been the hurdle the last couple of years,” Syverson said. “I’m excited that we have a Senate vote that I’m confident about. We hope Rockford will have its casino in the next 48 hours.”
A Rockford casino will create hundreds of construction jobs and permanent positions, Mayor Tom McNamara said.
“I’m grateful for the vote and for Rep. West’s leadership on the expanded gaming issue,” McNamara said.
The mayor said a Rockford casino would generate $4 million to $6 million a year in tax revenue for the city, and would create 800 to 1,100 full-time jobs.
Licensing fees and tax revenue could generate as much as $700 million in the first year for the state. It’s intended to be used for a $45 billion capital-construction program.
The sports betting plan capitalizes on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that ended Nevada’s monopoly on sports-betting. It languished until this week when Blue Island Democratic Rep. Robert Rita added a long-discussed measure to expand nearly 30-year-old casino gambling.
Rita’s measure would allow for casinos in Rockford, Lake County, Chicago, suburban Chicago, Danville and Williamson County. Thousands of gambling positions would be added to existing casinos, as well as to horse racing tracks.
The bill needs approval from at least three fifths of the Senate now that the General Assembly is working past its scheduled Friday adjournment. The House reconvened Saturday and is scheduled to be in session again Sunday.
Syverson said the best location for a casino would be at the leveled Clock Tower Resort property on East State Street, which has direct access from a ramp off Interstate 90.
McNamara said the Clock Tower spot is “certainly a good location.” But “we are not locked into any specific site, although no sites have been discussed.”
Illinois law now authorizes riverboat casino licenses in Alton, East Peoria, Rock Island, Metropolis, Aurora, East St. Louis, Elgin and Des Plaines. Joliet has two.
At the same time, plans are moving ahead for construction of a casino in Beloit.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs published a final environmental impact statement Friday for the Ho-Chunk Nation project at Colley and Willowbrook roads near I-90.
“The city of Beloit is thrilled to see this process move forward,” said City Manager Lori Curtis Luther in a news release. “We are committed to our partnership with the Ho-Chunk Nation and are ready to hit the ground running.”
The Beloit casino project is expected to create 1,500 jobs and requires the approval of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers.