JB Pritzker

Illinois Legislature Passes Long-Awaited Gambling Bill

The initiative now heads over to be signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

What to Know

  • The Illinois House continued to debate several bills, approved by the Senate, that will set the new fiscal year's budget
  • The Senate, which adjourned yesterday, was expected to go back into session Sunday

After a long-awaited deliberation, Illinois lawmakers passed a comprehensive gambling expansion bill Sunday afternoon that will ultimately legalize sports betting across the state and authorize a casino to be built in Chicago.

The state initiative, which has been 15 years in the making, headed over to be signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

"With that guiding principle, together, we just accomplished one of the most ambitious and consequential legislative sessions in this state’s history," Pritzker tweeted Sunday evening.

"I want to express to our legislators my heartfelt gratitude for your commitment, your wise counsel, your willingness to listen, compromise, negotiate, change your minds or change mine, and get this work done," he went on to tweet.

The complex sports gambling bill has been drawing attention from all corners of the political world—calling for slots at O’Hare and Midway airports, along with horse racetracks. College teams however, are said to be exempt and the licensing fees would start in the millions.

The bill would give Chicago a new casino license to be privately owned—the city would get a third of the tax revenue and the rest would be split between the state and the private owner.

In addition, it would also grant a casino license to the south suburbs and Waukegan

The May 31 deadline came and went for the Illinois legislature, but despite the increased vote total needed to pass bills, legislators were still plugging away on several key issues in Springfield.

On the House side, finishing off work on the budget was a top priority this weekend. The Senate passed five different bills on Friday, with the parameters of the budget already having been approved by the House. The remaining four pieces of legislation will need to be approved by the body before they can be sent to Governor J.B. Pritzker for his signature.

Bills to appropriate and spend funds for construction projects were part of the package being considered by the House, and a budget implementation plan is also being considered by the body, according to an email sent out by Senate Democrats on Saturday.

Before you light up your joints Illinois, there are some things you should know.

Speaker Madigan issued a statement Saturday evening saying "today, while Democrats and Republicans have used some additional time to build a stronger compromise, the people of Illinois can see the first signs of a state beginning to move in the right direction...We have now passed a bipartisan, balanced budget that invests $375 million more in education, and protects critical services for seniors, women’s health, and families in need. It meets our full pension obligation, and pays down more than $1 billion in old bills."

The Senate adjourned its session on Friday after completing its work on the budget bill, as well as an abortion rights bill that it approved and sent to Pritzker’s desk, but the body will reconvene on Sunday as the legislature tackles several other issues.

Lawmakers saw some opposition from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who initially said she opposed the bill’s language that allows venues like Soldier Field to house gambling facilities.

Lightfoot later issued a statment saying, "“After productive discussions with the Governor, we have agreed to allow a limited amount of betting at sports venues subject to local oversight and control. These enhancements to the gaming proposal will allow us to maximize revenue capabilities of a new casino for the City of Chicago and ensure a good quality of life for our neighborhoods that might otherwise be affected. As such, I urge the passage of SB 690 as amended. We will remain engaged with the Governor as well as Speaker Madigan and President Cullerton to ensure a fair outcome for all of Chicago this session.”

Since the bills were not finalized by May 31, they required a three-fifths majority to pass, but with a supermajority in both houses of the legislature, Democrats expected to pass all pieces of the budget this weekend before concluding their work at the capitol.

Moreover, a vote on a gas tax bill, which would raise funds for construction projects by increasing the tax on fuel in the state of Illinois for the first time in nearly 30 years, was one of the pieces of legislation was also expected to be voted on.

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