DANVILLE – Attention will again be on Springfield this week with locals wondering whether a riverboat casino will ever come to Danville.
Gambling expansion is included in pieces of the legislation being called the “grand bargain.” There are measures for riverboat casino expansion and for borrowing money to pay overdue bills. The budget compromise also includes an income-tax increase, a massive pension overhaul to save up to $1 billion a year, a property-tax freeze and a change in the way public schools are funded.
The casino expansion plan would create a land-based casino in Chicago and add riverboat casinos in Danville, Lake County, Rockford, the south suburbs of Chicago and in Williamson County in southern Illinois, as well as allow horse racing tracks to have slot machines at Arlington Heights, Cicero and Collinsville.
When a bill died in committee on the other side of the state line in Indiana for a casino in Terre Haute, Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said “that gives us a little bit of a breather.”
He said there would continue to be more work in Springfield under an arbitrary deadline of Feb. 28 for Senate action to try to get the “grand bargain” legislation to the Illinois House.
State Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, said on Friday a vote was still expected on Tuesday, but there always could be a change and delay. There has been a look at individual bills. The expanded gambling bill is Senate Bill 7.
“Lucky number 7,” Bennett said.
“It’s not been changed at all since the committee,” Bennett said.
He said there is enough bipartisan support in both Republican and Democratic districts.
But legislators really want to make sure it’s bringing in money from out of state, such as with a Danville casino being near the Indiana border, Bennett said.
He said if there are only a couple Republican votes for the “grand bargain,” the Illinois House will see that as Gov. Bruce Rauner won’t be on board and won’t sign anyway. Why then would the legislation be given to House Speaker Michael Madigan for a vote if it never will become law?
If there are more Republican votes, it puts more pressure on the House to move it on or have its version, Bennett said.
“These are tough votes to take if they’re not going to solve the problem,” Bennett said about the state budget.
Bennett said the Terre Haute, Ind., casino bill dying definitely changes the outlook on a Danville casino.
“We’re farther along,” he added.
A riverboat casino in Danville could mean 600 construction jobs; 600-800 permanent jobs; and about $5 million in annual revenue. More revenue is expected from the sales tax, liquor tax, hotel/motel and food and beverage taxes. Sixty-five percent of revenue for a Danville casino is estimated to come from Indiana.