Timeline on Gambling Expansion in Illinois
1927 – Pari-mutuel wagering on horseracing is approved by the Illinois General Assembly.
1971 – Bingo games legalized.
July 1, 1974 – Illinois Lottery launched on July 1, 1974, after Gov. Dan Walker signed legislation passed by the Illinois General Assembly. The Lottery released its first tickets by distributing to 7,000 retailers statewide. Marketed as the “cure all for state education funding for K to 12 education,” funding levels began dropping off and failing to keep pace due to the General Assembly putting the funds into the state’s General Fund. While additional revenue was earmarked for education, a corresponding amount of money of general funding was reallocated for other purposes, meaning the lottery proceeds merely were traded for another revenue source. By 1977, funding for K to 12 education dropped off and a larger burden was put on local government to bridge the gap.
1982 – Illinois Pick3 lottery game launched
1984 – Illinois Pick4 and Lotto games were launched by the Lottery and the fast pick feature, by which the terminal randomly selects numbers was an added feature.
1986 – Charitable games of chance for non-profit organizations approved.
February 1990 – Riverboat gambling legalized in Illinois, making it the second state in the nation to legalize riverboat gambling. A total of 10 licenses were authorized and boats were required to cruise a body of water while gambling occurred.
Sept. 11, 1991 – First riverboat begins operation in Alton. Reservations were required, admission was charged, there was a fee for general parking, and there were long lines waiting to board for all evening sessions due to requiring the boats to cruise.
May 21, 1999 – Gov. George Ryan signs Riverboat Gambling Act that no longer required boats to cruise the river. Almost immediately, all riverboats ceased cruising and became de facto land-based, dockside casinos.
2003 – Pick ‘n Play was launched by the Lottery, a new on the web game that combined both instant and online games.
2005 – Illinois Gaming Board revoked the license of the Emerald Casino because of questions about reputed organized crime connections of some parties to the deal. That decision was a necessary step in reallocating the license and getting a casino in operation somewhere to generate tax revenue for state and local governments. In addition to horse racing, a portion of the casino's proceeds would be earmarked for other communities and special interests, including University of Illinois athletics. However, a federal appeals court almost immediately blocked the gaming board from reissuing the license pending resolution of some other legal entanglements in the convoluted case.
May 2009 – HB 255, the Video Gaming Act, is passed by the Illinois General Assembly, legalizing the use of video gaming terminals in licensed establishments, licensed truck stop establishments, licensed fraternal establishments, and licensed veteran’s establishments. Funds from the Act would be used for funding capital projects. One of the provisions of the Act was an “opt out” provision whereby a unit of local government could choose not to allow such gaming. To date, 74 communities and five counties – Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry and Wayne – have passed bans on video gaming. Attempts were made to exclude those entities from receiving tax dollars if they didn’t participate.
August 2009 –.Chicago Blackhawks owner and liquor distributor Rockwell Wirtz files suit, claiming that the Video Gaming Act is unconstitutional since its many provisions – from raising taxes on candy and liquor, to establishing video gaming, to funding studies on public lotteries – were not sufficiently related to one another as required by the state constitution’s single subject rule.
January 2011 – The First Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the Video Gaming Act, passed in May 2009, is unconstitutional, because the law violates the state constitution’s “single subject” clause, meaning laws must address just one topic. The provision is meant to eliminate logrolling or the attachment of unpopular measures to popular legislation in order to get the unpopular measures passed.
May 2011 – SB744 passes, authorizing a Chicago casino and additional casinos – in Rockford, Danville, Park City, Chicago South Suburbs as well as slot machines at O’Hare and Midway Airports. In addition, horse racing tracks at Collinsville, Arlington Heights, Cicero, Crete, East Moline, Melrose Park and at the Illinois State Fairgrounds would be transformed into land-based casinos with the introduction of slot machines at each track.
July 2011 – After years of inactivity, the 10th riverboat license is operational with the launch of the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines – a first for Cook County. While garnering receipts of $34.1 million, much of its gain came at the expense of neighboring casinos – Elgin’s Grand Victoria casino which saw a 24 percent drop in revenue as did Aurora’s Hollywood Casino with a 4 percent slide. Joliet’s two casinos also lost money, leading some to speculate that gambling had reached a “saturation point” among the state’s gamblers.
August 2011 – In a 7-0 decision, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that legislation authorizing video gaming did not violate the state’s “single subject” clause, removing the legal roadblock to the enactment of the legislation.