Amanda Vinicky

Illinois' racing board is taking a gamble in an attempt to save the beleaguered industry. Two historic Illinois tracks will hold no races next year, a decision that could lead to their permanent closure.

Paul Kehrer via Flickr

The owners of Illinois' horse race tracks say the industry is struggling to survive, but key players diverge on how to salvage the industry. Decisions by a state board Tuesday afternoon could determine tracks' fate. The Illinois Racing Board is set to decide during a meeting in Chicago which Illinois tracks can hold horse meets, and when --- a decision that's key to the tracks' profitability.

"We look at this meeting today as probably one of the most important ones that we have ever been to," said Dick Duchoissois, chairman and owner of the Arlington Park track.

Three years ago, the first video gaming machines popped up in Illinois bars, restaurants, and truck stops. 

Brian Mackey/WUIS

The Illinois Legislature adjourned its spring session having passed a new state budget and other key measures, but leaving some business undone. Here's a look at what passed and what didn't:  
Budget: A roughly $35.7 billion budget for 2015 keeps funding flat for schools and most state agencies. Majority Democrats acknowledged the budget is ``incomplete'' because it postpones tough votes about whether to slash spending or find new revenue until after November's election.  

Poker, blackjack and roulette could soon join such games as Angry Birds, Candy Crush and Words With Friends on the laptops, tablets and smart phones of Illinois residents. 

Video Gaming: Illinoisians Get a Piece of the Action

Jun 1, 2014
Lucy’s Place is a video gaming parlor located in a strip mall in Springfield.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

With their bright lights and chirping electronic sounds, the row of five slot machines could be in any casino in the world.

The seats are comfortable. The attendant is a kindly elderly woman who offers to get you something to drink. Within minutes, you’ve just won $10 on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

But make no mistake, this isn’t Las Vegas. Or even one of Illinois’ 10 riverboat casinos. This is a strip mall in central Illinois, just a few storefronts away from a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, a nail salon and a dollar store.

Casino Queen
Paul Sableman (pasa47) via Flickr

  While Illinois lawmakers continue to debate whether to extend the income tax increase. But that's not the only source of money being considered. Backers of expanding gambling also project the state would get a windfall.

State Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) is once again taking a stab at gambling expansion.

He's got two options: Either authorizing a casino for Chicago, or a broader plan that would put casinos in Chicago, Danville, Rockford, Lake County and the south suburbs. Horse race tracks would also be permitted to have slot machines.

Casino Queen
Paul Sableman (pasa47) via Flickr

A group of Illinois lawmakers considered two different plans to expand gambling Wednesday. One tracks other recent proposals to add five casinos across Illinois; the other focuses on Chicago.

Every expansion of gambling in Illinois has required a delicate balance of competing geographic and businesses interests.

That's why plans in recent years have called for slot machines at horse racetracks, and five new casinos: in Chicago, the south suburbs, Lake County, Rockford, and Danville.

Casino Queen
Paul Sableman (pasa47) via Flickr

An Illinois lawmaker is attempting to revive talks over a massive expansion of gambling in the state. The effort begins Tuesday evening at a casino in East St. Louis.

After years of effort, talks to expand gambling broke down last spring. The issue receded amid high-profile legislation dealing with pensions, concealed carry, and same-sex marriage.

Now Rep. Bob Rita, a Democrat from Blue Island, is trying to get gambling back on the front burner.

He's planning several public hearings across the state, beginning at the Casino Queen in East St. Louis.

The Capitol
Brian Mackey/WUIS

Illinois lawmakers on Wednesday heard from supporters and opponents of allowing more casinos in Illinois. But they're no closer to making a deal.

Gambling was a big issue earlier this year, but negotiations fell apart in May, at the end of the spring legislative session. Since then, attention has moved to other issues, like the state's underfunded pension systems.

On the table are five new casinos — in Chicago and its north and south suburbs, in Rockford, and in Danville. The plan would also allow slot machines at horse racetracks.

Amanda Vinicky

For the first time since a brief special session in July,legislators will begin making their way en masse to Springfield this week, for the fall veto session. The agenda before them is relatively light. The General Assembly will likely debate some budget matters. And there's a hearing on a new type of health care coverage for retired state employees. Amanda Vinicky previews what else is ahead.

Amanda Vinicky

The Illinois Gaming Board is set to consider lifting a restriction that forbids casinos from staying open 24 hours a day. 

Illinois' casinos have previously tried, and failed, to get the okay to keep their doors open 24-7. Now they're trying again. The Gaming Board will consider a proposal Sept. 14.

The issue of video gaming machines has created a divide in the town of Auburn. 

Mayor Barb Stamer cast a tie breaking vote against gambling earlier this year.  Now, she's changed her mind.  (UPDATE: 6:45 a.m. Tuesday) The matter came up at Monday's Auburn City Council meeting and Stamer cast the tie-breaking vote in favor.

Towns small and large have had to decide whether or not allowing the machines is worth the cut the communities will receive from gamblers.

Stamer spoke with WUIS' Sean Crawford on Illinois Edition:

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The legislative countdown continues, as Illinois' General Assembly is set to adjourn Friday.   Lawmakers spent their Memorial Day at the capitol, where little apparent progress was made on many of the outstanding issues.    The Senate met only briefly yesterday - the bulk of Senators' time was spent in private, partisan meetings.That's where they often make decisions on how to proceed on controversial issues. Like the budget. 

Brian Mackey / WUIS

There are five days left in the Illinois General Assembly's spring session. Legislators have a lot of work ahead of them.  The House adjourns on Memorial Day at noon; the Senate convenes at 4 p.m.




Typically, fighting over the budget carries into the waning hours of a legislative session.

But Democrats - who have enough seats to pass a spending plan without any Republican votes - say they've already reached a deal.

Paul Kehrer via Flickr

Internet gambling on horse racing would once again be legal in Illinois under legislation approved Sunday by the Illinois House of Representatives.

Online and telephone horse betting has been illegal in Illinois all year — a law authorizing it expired on Dec. 31. The practice, known as "advanced deposit wagering," was a $122 million business in Illinois last year.

The legislation would also finally redistribute money from casino gambling that was supposed to shore up the struggling horse racing industry, but instead has been languishing in a state account.

Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan)
Illinois Senate

The Illinois Senate has once again approved an expansion of gambling. But it remains to be seen whether Governor Pat Quinn will go along with the plan.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The video poker machines found in bars around Illinois are perfectly legal. What’s not is the widespread practice of gambling on those games.

So when bar owners collect money their patrons lose while betting on the machines, that cash goes unreported. And state government comes up empty — to the tune of an estimated $350 million each year. That’s an impressive sum for a state drowning in red ink and looking for a quick fiscal fix. At the same time, the deficit could be video poker gambling’s ticket to come out from under the table.

Mike Morsch
WUIS/Illinois Issues

  The state could well be Illinois’ biggest bookie. In fact, gambling is big business here, and has been for quite some time. 

So much so that recent legislation signed by Gov. George Ryan increasing riverboat gambling taxes will raise an estimated $134 million for the state, according to the Illinois comptroller’s office. That money is expected to help offset a big budget shortfall.