Waukegan, Arlington Park advocate for gambling expansion, in different ways

  • Howard Sudberry, senior director of marketing and communications at Arlington Park, checks out the self-service terminals inside the facility on Wednesday.

      Howard Sudberry, senior director of marketing and communications at Arlington Park, checks out the self-service terminals inside the facility on Wednesday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
Capitol News Illinois
Updated 5/3/2019 8:08 AM

SPRINGFIELD -- Stakeholders in the suburbs that have been advocating for gambling expansion for almost a decade were back at the table Thursday with renewed optimism this legislative session.

Much of the focus during testimony before a House executive committee on gambling expansion centered on legislation that failed to clear committee in the previous General Assembly. That bill, which would have added six more casino licenses to the state's current 10, could prove to be a basis for this year's bill, which has not been filed yet.

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Sam Cunningham, mayor of Waukegan, said the city is "ready to transform with the addition of a casino to Lake County."

Parties in Lake County have long been vying for a casino. In the meantime, the county and various suburbs have relied on video gambling for new revenue.

Meanwhile, casinos are pushing for legislation to allow betting on sports within the casinos or online using the casinos' wagering platforms.

Tom Swoik, executive director the Illinois Casino Gaming Association Swoik, in November estimated sports betting would generate roughly $50 million to $100 million a year in tax revenue for the state.

"We don't think we need any more brick and mortar casinos in the state," Swoik said last fall. "We do think the legalization of sports betting will help now that the Supreme Court has ruled states can allow it if they want."

Sports betting is what Arlington Park is focusing on. Last year's gambling bill would have allowed video gambling and table games at racetracks, turning them into racinos. But Arlington did not support the measure.

Tony Petrillo, president of Arlington Park, said Thursday he'd like to see lawmakers focus on passing sports betting legislation first, because trying to incorporate too many interests in a comprehensive gambling bill might leave racetracks with the same outcome as last year -- nothing.

"While [sports betting] is not the answer to our overall problems, we feel it can reach and expand our customer base until those big gaming issues are worked out," Petrillo said.

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