Bill Allowing Illinois Casinos to Employ Convicted Felons Headed to Governor’s Desk

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Illinois lawmakers have voted to expand options for people with past criminal convictions to potentially get employment. A new bill would allow them to apply for work in the state’s casinos.

Senate Bill 1462 passed the Illinois House last week with a 78 to 27 vote in favor. It had previously passed the Senate with 44 yes votes to 12 not in favor. It now heads to the desk of Governor J.B. Pritzker, although he has yet to officially comment on the issue.

Integrity of Gaming

The bill might not be hugely popular with casino patrons. However, the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) has been tasked with maintaining certain provisions and standards.

“The Illinois Gaming Board may, in its discretion, refuse an occupational license to any person who has a background that poses a threat to the public interests of the State or to the security and integrity of gaming,” says the official bill text.

The IGB will also look at the exact convictions in each case, with the bill setting out “provisions that the Board shall consider when considering criminal convictions of an applicant.”

As well as the humanitarian aims of rehabilitation, the decision also opens up the labor pool for the state’s casinos. Senator Robert Peters (D-13) said that it would “open up good jobs” for people who needed them.

Jobs Needed

Illinois’ casinos are an expanding presence in the state in recent years. Bally’s has invested more than $250 million and posted some 700 jobs for a planned casino site in Medinah Temple in Chicago. It wants a full resort complex open on the 30-acre site by 2026.

Meanwhile, Penn Entertainment is spending $500 million on moving its two Illinois riverboat casinos inland. It received the go-ahead from regulators to build permanent upgraded casinos and hotel resorts in April, and wants to start construction in 2024.

Both casinos will require a lot of jobs. But as some New York gambling venues have complained in recent months, casinos aren’t always the most attractive place to work.

Similar Bills

Lawmakers in New York have tabled a similar bill, which was sent to state Governor Kathy Hochul in December 2022.

Some were vocally opposed to the legislation at the time. “That’s just wrong. This is another example of a liberal policy in an area they shouldn’t touch,” said New York Conservative Party Chair Gerald Kassar.

Politicians in support of these kind of bills, however, often look to the humanitarian side as much as it may undoubtedly also help casinos.

“We’re trying to open up employment opportunities at the casinos. People deserve a second chance. They shouldn’t be denied employment because they got a drug felony conviction,” said New York Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon).

Back in Illinois, Governor Pritzker may not have said anything about this particular bill. But he has shown interest in both casinos and convict rehabilitation in the past.

He has attended multiple casino openings over his term in office, and also passed several criminal justice reform bills focusing on rehabilitation.

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