Gambling expansion in Illinois still up for grabs
By Bob Okon email@example.com January 17, 2011 6:42PM
CASINO REVENUES AND TAXES
2010 Casino Revenues
Illinois: $1.37 billion
Harrah’s Joliet: $246 million
Hollywood/Empress Joliet: $143 million
2009 Casino Revenues
Illinois: $1.43 billion
Harrah’s Joliet: $279 million
Hollywood/Empress Joliet: 120 million
2010 Gaming Taxes
Illinois: $384 million
Joliet: 23 million
2009 Gaming Taxes
Illinois: $410 million
Joliet: $24 million
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
The plan to add more casinos and slot machines in Illinois went nowhere in the lame-duck session, but is it gone for good?
“I’m not confident,” said state Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi, D-Joliet, who’d like to see gaming expansion go away for now.
But if the legislature is in session, it likely means there will be talk about more casinos. And the new General Assembly starts work at the beginning of February.
If casino expansion comes up again, Wilhelmi and other opponents of expanded gaming have some new numbers on their side. The year-end report from the Illinois Gaming Board showed gaming revenues statewide continued to slide in 2010.
Gaming revenues at the state’s nine casinos in 2010 were $1.37 billion. That compares to $1.43 billion in 2009, a year in which Joliet’s Empress Casino was closed for three months because of a fire.
The Empress was rebranded in December as Hollywood Casino Joliet. Owner Penn National Gaming rebuilt a pavilion with new restaurants and a new theme. The Joliet casino is looking for a bigger year in 2011.
But even with the Empress back in business for all of 2010, Joliet’s two casinos combined for $10 million less in revenues than the year before. Empress/Hollywood and Harrah’s together generated $389 million in 2010.
Gaming taxes down
Gaming taxes, what legislators really look at, were down as well. Taxes collected by the state in 2010 were $384 million, down $26 million from the previous year. Joliet tax revenues were down about $1 million at $23 million.
One reason Joliet may not have shown bigger numbers the year after the Empress fire is that Harrah’s was able to get the business from its crosstown rival for the three months it was closed in 2009. But the statewide decline showed a generally downward trend in the casino business anyway.
The four casinos in the Chicago market, including Joliet, will face more competition already in 2011 when a new casino opens in Des Plaines. The gaming expansion proposal also would have added three casinos in Chicago, the south suburbs and Lake County. Two other casinos were slated for Rockford and Danville. Slot machines would have been added at six horse-racing tracks.
The proposal passed the state senate, where Wilhelmi voted against it.
“I thought it would be harmful to Joliet,” Wilhelmi said.
The House was slated to consider roughly the same package. But the proposal was never called for a vote as the House instead focused on the income tax hike and other issues in the last days of the legislative session.