Residents ready for economic benefits, jobs new legislation will bring
More than 60 percent of Illinois residents support a gaming solution that includes more casinos and the addition of slot machines at racetracks as a solution to create more than 20,000 jobs and generate nearly $200 million annually for the state, a newly released poll reveals.
The Alexandria, Virginia-based Public Opinion Strategies poll of 800 likely Illinois voters conducted April 10-12 shows that Illinois residents overwhelmingly back legislation to expand gaming to help generate new revenue.
When asked if they would “support or oppose a proposal to generate revenues to state and local governments by increasing the number of slot machines allowed at riverboats, allowing slot machines at racetracks, and by adding a land-based Chicago casino and four additional riverboat casinos,” 62 percent of voters responded that they supported it, compared to 33 percent who opposed it.
“Illinoisans are sending a loud and clear message that they strongly support gaming legislation that will bring sorely needed economic benefits throughout the state during these challenging budget times,” said Illinois Revenue & Jobs Alliance Chairman Bill Black. “They have no appetite for lawmakers raising taxes or cutting essential programs like education, health care and safety net services that impact our most vulnerable residents. This legislation is an attractive solution that comes at absolutely no cost to taxpayers.”
The poll was commissioned and issued by the newly formed Illinois Revenue & Jobs Alliance (IRJA), a growing statewide consortium of more than 70 labor organizations, business groups, farming and agribusiness interests, racetracks and horsemen associations, and local municipalities, all committed to the creation of new jobs and state revenue that expanded gambling would bring.
Those surveyed overwhelmingly oppose the alternative proposal discussed by some lawmakers to subsidize racetracks in lieu of permitting slot machines at those venues. According to the poll, 76 percent of respondents favor slot machines at racetracks, compared to just 16 percent who favor an annual subsidy.
“It’s clear that Illinois residents favor initiatives aimed at creating jobs and increasing revenue,” Black said. “It’s a no-brainer compared to a subsidy that would cost the state money.”
Last week, the IRJA issued an independent study by the Spectrum Group showing that that pending legislation in Springfield would generate nearly $200 million in additional state tax revenue and admission fees each year along with $377 million in initial licensing fees while creating nearly 20,500 jobs throughout Illinois. The study also revealed that there is room to accommodate expansion without reaching a saturation point.
According to the poll, broad support exists throughout the state for Senate Bill 1849, which calls for new casinos in Chicago, Lake County, south suburban Chicago, Rockford and Danville; additional slot machines at existing casinos and the addition of slot machines at the state’s six horseracing tracks.
Support for SB 1849 is highest in the Collar Counties where 70 percent of respondents favor the proposal, but support is strong throughout Illinois: 68 percent in favor in Northern Illinois; 61 percent in favor in Southern Illinois; 60 percent in favor in Cook County; and 54 percent in favor in Central Illinois.
“It’s very telling that the areas of the state that support gaming the most are the very same areas that already have casinos,” Black said. “This shows that these communities have experienced no grave social costs from their proximity to legalized gaming, and also that there is a substantial market demand for more of it.”
The most popular components of SB 1849 were increasing the number of slot machines at existing riverboats (69 percent) and allowing slot machines at the state’s six horse racing tracks (68 percent). Meanwhile, 64 percent favor authorizing four new casinos in Danville, Lake County, Rockford and the south suburbs and 62 percent support authorizing a land-based casino in Chicago.
According to the poll, 55 percent added that they would be more likely to vote for a state legislator who supported gaming expansion in the next election, compared to 30 percent who would be less likely to vote for a lawmaker who opposed it.
Why Senate Bill 1849?
Creating More Jobs
Illinois will realize economic benefits through the expansion outlined in SB 1849, the Spectrum study indicated. The legislation would create 20,451 new jobs and more than $1.5 billion in personal income, including 9,800 full-time direct jobs with $323 million in annual wages as well as more than 4,500 construction-related jobs, translating into nearly $475 million in wages, benefits and taxes. The expansion allowing for slots at horseracing venues would create 2,723 full-time jobs at racetracks and 1,038 full-time construction-related jobs at those venues. Additionally, SB 1849 would provide a stable foundation for the preservation of nearly 37,000 agribusiness jobs.
Generating More Revenue
According to the Spectrum report, projected gross gaming revenue in Illinois would reach $3.28 billion annually by 2016 if SB 1849 were enacted – a 75 percent increase over the $1.87 billion projected if no expansion occurred. SB 1849 would translate into a total of $809.2 million per year in taxes and admission fees for the state, or an increase of $195.3 million, the study found. In addition, the state would receive an additional reconciliation payment of $1.17 billion and $377 million in initial licensing fees.
About the Illinois Revenue & Jobs Alliance
The Illinois Revenue & Jobs Alliance is a growing statewide consortium of labor organizations, business groups, farming and agribusiness interests, racetracks and horsemen associations, and local municipalities committed to the passage of SB 1849 which calls for the expansion of gaming in Illinois, including slot machines at racetracks. The Illinois Revenue & Jobs Alliance is committed to creating new jobs, protecting existing jobs spurring new economic development and generating more revenue for the state. For more information, visit www.IllinoisJobsAlliance.org.