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Illinois Casino and Card Room Gaming

The Riverboat Gambling Act passed in February 1990, making Illinois the second state in the nation to legalize riverboat gambling. This Act gave the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) permission to grant up to 10 casino licenses. Each riverboat gaming license authorizes at most 1,200 gaming positions and allows each licensee to operate as many as two vessels at a single, specified dock site. Riverboats in Illinois are not required to set sail on the river, nor are they required to be boats.

In 2005 the legislature adjusted gambling tax rates to 15% on the first $25 million of adjusted gross receipts; 22.5% on receipts from $25 million to $50 million; 27.5% on receipts from $50 million to $75 million; 32.5% on receipts from $75 million to $100 million; 37.5% on receipts from $100 million to $150 million; 45% on receipts from $150 million to $200 million; and 50% on receipts in excess of $200 million. The new structure reduced the top tax bracket from 70% to 50% and changed each bracket's dollar range.

The 10th Illinois state riverboat gaming license has been the focus of significant legal and political controversy. Emerald Casino, which held the license at the time, filed for bankruptcy and the IGB considered revoking it. The IGB had approved Emerald's sale of the 10th license to Isle of Capri Casinos, but the initial approval was overturned after membership changes in the board. At the end of June 2005, the board stated that it intended to move forward with administrative hearings aimed at stripping the bankrupt casino of the license, its only tangible asset. In December 2007, Emerald Casino decided to give up its court battle over the retention of its rights to the 10th state casino license, which remained dormant since 1997. Illinois was then able to auction off the license and, in December 2008, awarded it to Midwest Gaming and Entertainment with plans to build a casino in suburban Des Plaines. In July 2011, Rivers Casino opened its doors to a 147,000-square-foot property with more than 1,000 slots, 50 table games and seven unique dining and entertainment venues.

After months of waiting, in July 2005, the IGB approved Casino Rock Island's plans to move its casino from a riverboat in downtown Rock Island to an inland site near Interstate 92 and Interstate 280. State law had been ambiguous on whether the IGB had the authority to approve such a request; however, by passing a legislative "fix" in 2005, the board unanimously approved the move. In December 2008, the casino was relocated and rebranded as Jumer's Casino and Hotel.

In February 2007, a bill allowing the addition of four casinos in the Chicago area passed a House committee. In June 2007, the state Senate approved the bill to allow four new casinos in Chicago and to allow existing casinos to expand. Supporters claimed the bill would generate $2 billion to be used for education, new roads and health care. The Illinois House Gaming Committee voted against the legislation, effectively killing it. In July 2007, with the ongoing budget crisis, lawmakers were still considering expanded gambling as a possible solution. However, disagreements over where the money would go caused a setback in the expansion plans.

Also in July 2007, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a statewide smoking ban into law. The ban covered all indoor public places, including bars, restaurants and casinos.

In January 2008, the legislature held a gaming hearing to take testimony on the controversial plan to allow the expansion of gambling. Both supporters and opponents testified on how best to revise the existing bill. In June 2008, as part of the budget proposal, the Senate passed a measure to add three casinos and racetracks to include slot machines, but the Illinois House voted against it, essentially stalling the bill. Despite the rejection in the House, the governor noted that the bill could be brought back. In July 2008, the House rejected the bill for a second time.

In May 2008, the IGB rejected a request to allow casinos to be open 24 hours a day. Casino operators were hoping to increase hours, in an attempt to offset decline in revenue due to the weak economy and the new state smoking ban.

In May 2009, the Senate and House both approved a bill that allowed video gambling at locations such as bars, restaurants and truck stops. In July 2009, it was signed into law by the governor. More than three years after the law was passed, the first video gaming machines (VGMs) were operational in fall 2012. The municipality receives 5% of the net VGM revenue. An additional 25% goes to the state for capital improvements, and the rest is split between the establishments and the game operator.

In June 2009, the Illinois State legislative committee advanced a measure (SB737) that could create four new riverboat casinos in the state. Senate Bill 744 would authorize one of the four to be a "mega-casino." Despite passing a House Committee and the assurance of bipartisan support from both chambers, SB737 died 12 January 2011.

A bill expanding gambling in Illinois passed the Illinois Senate in May 2013 after scrubbing the bill's online gambling piece. The gambling bill included new casinos for Chicago and four other towns, in addition to slot machines at horse racing tracks. But the bill failed to make it out of the Illinois House after Gov. Quinn indicated any casino expansion would be linked to comprehensive pension reform.

On 28 February 2017, a bill that would authorize the development of up to six casinos and allow slots at racetracks was approved by the state Senate. Under the terms of the bill, existing casinos would be able to increase the number of slot machines from 1,200 to 1,600.

In 2019, riverboat restrictions were removed and land based properties became legal. Rivers casino became the first such property. By 2022, 11 casinos were in operation with 5 approved licensees in various stages of development.

Illinois Casino and Card Room Gaming Properties

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