Illinois Lawmakers Discuss Gaming Revenue

Illinois lawmakers are meeting in Springfield in an overtime session to consider ways to fill the state's critical budget shortfall. Gaming revenue could be "part of a solution," said Illinois state Rep. Bob Rita (l.), who previously has sponsored expanded gambling measures. Governor Bruce Rauner indicated he might consider gaming revenue to help fund government pensions.

Illinois lawmakers have returned to Springfield for an overtime session to address the state’s budget shortfall. Governor Bruce Rauner has indicated he could be willing to include gaming revenue as a partial solution to help Chicago fund police and fire pensions. “It could be part of a solution. It’s not the entire solution,” said state Rep. Bob Rita, who has sponsored expanded gaming measures.

Rita, a Democrat, noted gaming is being considered as a potential source of new revenue to help fill a gap in capital projects, pensions or education. But, Rita said, a gaming expansion bill, allowing a mega-casino in Chicago or five new casinos statewide, would be tackled only after the budget is settled. Rita’s colleague, Republican state Rep. John Cabello, said, “We do believe that gambling has to be part of the solution. One of the things we have to do is generate revenues that aren’t taxes. This is a user fee on people that choose to go gambling.”

Republican state Senator Dave Syverson said Illinois is short $300 million in making annual bond payments to fund the state’s capital plan. He blamed the gap on lower-than-expected video gaming revenue being, a delayed start of video gaming statewide and overspending by former Governor Pat Quinn. Syverson said a gaming bill would help pay for some of the capital projects Quinn approved. Lawmakers need to pass a balanced budget, gaming expansion and a new capital plan, Syverson said. “If we take care of all three of those, Illinois is really going to be back on track.”