Illinois Passes Bill Allowing Casinos to Hire People with Felony Convictions

The Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill allowing casinos to hire people with felony convictions. If it becomes law, Senate Bill 1462, introduced by State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago), will significantly expand Illinois’ hospitality labor pool as new casinos prepare to open.

After passing the Senate in March with a 44-12 vote, the bill moved to the House Gaming Committee. The committee, which noted support from labor unions and the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB), sent it on with a vote of 13-3.

On May 25, SB 1462 passed both houses with a final vote of 78-27. It’s now up to Governor JB Pritzker to sign the bill. A similar bill passed in New York in 2022, but Gov. Kathy Hochul used her veto to block it.

Legislation Boosts Hiring Pool, Benefits People and Communities

Sen. Peters introduced the labor legislation in February, saying it would open the door to good jobs. He expanded his reasoning with a statement in March after the bill passed the Senate.

Notably, the bill makes those with a felony conviction eligible for an occupational license from the IGB. Licenses would allow the holder to work at Illinois casinos in non-gaming positions.

Said Peters in the release:

The amount of financially realistic employment opportunities for individuals impacted by the justice system are few and far between.

Connecting those with prior justice system involvement with employment by allowing them to perform functions in a casino that do not involve gaming ensures financial stability and decreases the likelihood of backsliding into the justice system.

The bill also gives the gaming board the power to review each licensee and refuse a permit to anyone deemed a threat to the state’s public interests or gaming integrity. IGB will consider the time since conviction, the number and severity of the charges, and more when deciding.

More than 30,000 Illinoisians Could be Eligible as Bally’s Staffs Up

Passage of SB 1462 comes only weeks after Bally’s began advertising for up to 700 positions at its temporary casino at River North’s Medinah Temple and its proposed permanent development in River West.

That project, valued at $1.7 billion, is slated for the Freedom Centre, Tribune Publishing’s current plant. Tribune announced in May it would buy a printing facility in Schaumburg and vacate its current location by July 2024.

In the meantime, Bally’s is waiting for a decision of “preliminary suitability” from the IGB after submitting its application as Chicago’s preferred operator last August.

When the okay comes, Bally’s next step is a temporary permit. The operator hopes to open Medinah Temple later this summer, subject to IGB’s approval timeline.

Before the new casino opens, Bally’s will need a local workforce. Peters’ bill means previously convicted job seekers will be eligible for some of those jobs.

According to The Sentencing Project’s estimate, just over 31,000 Illinoisians had felony convictions in 2022.

Ensuring those people also have opportunities for stable, well-paying jobs benefits everyone, reiterated Peters back in March:

Eliminating employment barriers is ultimately a public safety issue. Non-gaming related services at casinos are good paying union jobs that help individuals impacted by the justice system to effectively take care of their responsibilities, strengthening their families and communities.

About the Author

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil (she/they) is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor, and a lead writer at Bonus. Here she focuses on news relevant to online casinos, while specializing in responsible gambling coverage, legislative developments, gambling regulations, and industry-related legal fights.
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