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Archive for February 25th, 2019

Rivers Casino Des Plaines Deal May Get Regulatory OK This Friday

Churchill Downs could get regulatory nod to expand further in Illinois as the state gears up for sports betting legalization push

Churchill Downs could get regulatory approval for its offer to buy a majority stake in Rivers Casino Des Plaines this Friday, news outlet Daily Herald reports.

Churchill Downs announced plans to buy a 50.1% stake in Illinois’ top-performing casino last fall. The Kentucky-based gaming and horse racing company cited the potential legalization of sports betting as one of the main reasons for its decision to seek expansion in Illinois. Churchill Downs currently owns the Arlington International Racecourse in suburban Chicago.

The Illinois Gaming Board is currently conducting a probe into Churchill Downs’ finances as well as criminal background checks of company officials. The investigation is a necessary step, on which the board will base its decision whether to greenlight the deal.

The Daily Herald reports that board members may vote on the transaction during their next meeting, scheduled for Friday, February 1. Gaming Board spokesperson Gene O’Shea told the newspaper that it was not immediately known whether the investigation will be completed in time for the proposed acquisition to be added on Friday’s agenda.

The purchase of a 50.1% stake in Rivers Casino will expand Churchill Downs’ presence in the Chicago area, an important gambling market. The deal will also place the company in an excellent position, should sports betting become legal in Illinois.

Officials for Churchill Downs and Rivers Casino’s parent company, Midwest Gaming Holdings, expect to finalize the deal in the first half of the year, subject to regulatory approval. Churchill Downs is to pay at least $326 million for the desired majority stake in the Des Plaines-based casino.

Gov. Pritzker Tacks Sports Betting Onto State Budget Plan

Churchill Down is extending its Illinois footprint at a time when the state is gearing up for another gambling expansion push, this time one related to the legalization of sports betting. Illinois’ newly sworn-in Governor, J.B. Pritzker, has included the authorization of the practice in the budget plan for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2019.

Gov. Pritzker’s sports betting push is yet to take form as a bill, but the state’s top legislator calls for up to 20 licenses for retail and online sports betting to be issued. Each license would come at a $10 million price. In other words, the state could collect $200 million in upfront payments from companies interested to operate sports betting.

Licensed operators will be taxed at 20% on gross wagering revenue. Legislators project that the state could annually collect between $77 million and $136 million in tax revenue from legal sports betting. Sportsbook owners will also be required to pay an annual license renewal fee of $5,000.

Gambling expansion proposals have failed in the state in recent years. But Illinois now has the chance to become the first state in the Midwest to legalize sports gambling and secure an important competitive advantage over its neighbors. That, paired with Gov. Pritzker’s support and a growing budget deficit, could bode well for a sports betting legislation and its movement through the Illinois Legislature.

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The post Rivers Casino Des Plaines Deal May Get Regulatory OK This Friday appeared first on Casino News Daily.

In Historic Move, Virginia Legislature Passes Casino Legalization Bill

The Virginia General Assembly supports the legalization of casino gambling and development of casinos in certain areas across the state

A bill paving the way for the establishment of casinos in select areas across Virginia passed the state General Assembly Saturday night. The legislation is now heading to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk. The state’s top official has previously said that he would support casino expansion if it were beneficial for Virginia.

State House and Senate lawmakers passed last night Substitute Senate Bill 1126. The piece authorizes the development of casinos in the cities of Bristol, Danville, and Portsmouth, but only if the move is approved in citywide referenda. This means that residents will have the final say on whether any of the three cities should host a gambling venue.

Last night’s approval of the casino legalization bill was the first major gambling expansion effort to successfully survive through the Virginia’s Legislature in recent years. State lawmakers have traditionally been opposed to all forms of gambling.

SB 1126, which was nearly identical to a legislation introduced by Senators Bill Carrico and Louise Lucas earlier this year, also authorizes referenda in Richmond and Norfolk, which the Pamunkey Indian Tribe has identified as the potential hosts of a tribal casino.

The casino bill’s approval came as an excellent piece of news for a group of Bristol businessmen, who presented last September a plan to develop a $250 million casino resort at the vacant site of Bristol Mall.

Casino Expansion Timeline

As mentioned above, SB 1126 now needs to be signed by Gov. Northam. The official has previously said that he would support a legislation that creates jobs and tax revenues for cash-strapped regions and the state,as a whole, so the piece is not likely to hit a roadblock at the Governor’s desk.

The piece tasks the state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission with conducting a comprehensive study on the economic and social impacts of the establishment of casinos in the areas designated in the bill. The commission will have to present the results from its study and recommendation regarding the conduction of casino activities in the state by November 1, 2019.

No citywide referenda will be able to take place unless the bill is re-enacted during the General Assembly’s 2020 legislative session.

The Virginia Lottery Board will be charged with crafting rules and regulations for the operation of casinos in the state. It should begin work on those rules regulations on January 1, 2020 and present them by June 30, 2020. The Lottery Board will be able to begin issuing casino licenses after July 1, 2020.

Under the bill, citywide referenda in Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, Richmond, and Norfolk, in which residents of the five cities will be able to voice their opinion on whether casinos should be established in the areas they reside in, should take place before January 1, 2021.

The piece of legislation also requires the Lottery Board to establish a self-exclusion program that will enable individuals to exclude from gambling at the state’s future casinos or any other facility licensed and regulated by the board.

Virginia’s casinos will be taxed at between 13% to 15% on their gaming revenues. The exact rate will be based on a licensed casino’s annual adjusted gross revenue.

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The post In Historic Move, Virginia Legislature Passes Casino Legalization Bill appeared first on Casino News Daily.

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