Illinois Governor Says Chicago Casino and Marijuana Could Put ‘Fiscal House in Order’

  • Illinois' governor, JB Pritzker, said a casino in Chicago and legalized marijuana will help the state's budget
  • He rejected remarks that expanded gambling and legal marijuana would bring a new wave of crime to the state
  • Illinois legislators approved the casino expansion bill, paving way for six casinos, including one in Chicago
Legalization of marijuana and casino in Chicago would help with state's budget, says Illinois governor
Legalization of marijuana and casino in Chicago would help with state’s budget, says Illinois governor

Easing the state budget

The Governor of Illinois has said that a new, bigger casino in Chicago and the legalization of marijuana across the state would help put the “fiscal house in order.”

JB Pritzker made his comments during an interview with Bloomberg News earlier this week. At the time, he said: “Nothing’s going to be fixed overnight, but we’ve made significant progress. And honestly, I really believe that we have turned this ship in the right direction. Illinois is back.”

This isn’t the first time that Pritzker has commented on the potential benefits of betting in the state. Back in March, the governor stated that revenue from sports betting could help ease Illinois’ budget problems. At the time, it was noted that several sports betting bills had been introduced, but nothing had passed.

Yet, by legalizing sports betting in the state, Pritzker highlighted that Illinois could rely on $200m (£158m) from sports gambling licensing fees, which would go toward the state’s $3.2bn (£2.52bn) budget hole.

Since then Illinois legislators approved an 816-page bill that legalizes sports gambling and sanctions six casinos, including one in Chicago.

However, while Pritzker has voiced his views on the introduction of a new massive casino and the legalization of marijuana, he’s hit back at remarks that such a move could bring a wave of crime to the state. For him, that’s not the outcome he thinks will happen.

“This was all about our being able to pay our bills,” he added, as well as build new schools and other services and create jobs.

Gambling capital

With the approval of the legislation, the number of video gambling machines and the maximum bet will rise. Not only that, but the state’s racing tracks will turn into racinos, which permits casino operators at three of them. Plans are underway to open two more.

With this move, Illinois could become a gambling capital with 7,000 video gambling venues, 16 casinos, five racinos, 5,000 sports betting kiosk locations, and online sports gambling. O’Hare International and Midway International airports will also permit video and poker machines.

The governor is expected to sign the expansion bill in the coming weeks.

Yet, while this may be seen as a positive step for the state there are also concerns that shouldn’t be forgotten. Take, for instance, the increase to the maximum bet. This will rise from $2 (£1.60) to $4 (£3.15). While this may not seem a lot, it can still add up, particularly for someone who may already be struggling with the $2 bets.

The UK is one jurisdiction that has already taken measures to reduce maximum bets on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 ($127) to £2 ($2.55), with the UK government stating that this is best for gamblers. Prior to the move, bettors were losing up to £18,000 ($22,850) an hour, money many couldn’t afford to lose.

For Illinois the government will have to make sure that gamblers are protected and can get the help they need should they find themselves betting more than they can afford. The expansion bill may help the state’s budget, but at the same time measures need to be put into place that doesn’t see a rise in crime or problem gambling behaviors.