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  The ILCC Legal Division

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TPP-13:
Riverboat Gaming Operations

I. Purpose

To set the policy of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission and establish the procedures whereby alcoholic liquor dispensing aspects of riverboat gaming operations may be regulated.

II. Policy

It is the policy of this Commission, and that of the Illinois Gaming Board, that the alcoholic liquor dispensing aspects of riverboat gaming operations shall be regulated by this Commission.

III. Background

The principal business function of a riverboat gaming operation is gaming; however, alcohol sales are a tangential business function of such gaming operations (Gaming Regulation 9000.100). The Illinois Liquor Control Commission has exclusive jurisdiction over all aspects of liquor licensing of riverboat premises, with the exception of the determination of hours of operation (235 ILCS 5/6-30; Gaming Regulations 3000.900 & 3000.930). Riverboat gaming operations are subject to the “Happy Hour” limitations (235 ILCS 5/6-28; Regulation 100.280).

5/6-30. Riverboat Gambling Excursions - Sale and Consumption of Alcoholic Liquor. Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, the Illinois Gaming Board shall have exclusive authority to establish the hours for sale and consumption of alcoholic liquor on board a riverboat during riverboat gambling excursions conducted in accordance with the Riverboat Gambling Act.

235 ILCS 5/5-1(g) states the parameters of a boat liquor license “to allow the sale of alcoholic liquor in individual drinks, on any passenger boat regularly operated as a common carrier on navigable waters in this State, which boat maintains a public dining room or restaurant thereon.”

A recent amendment to the Riverboat Gambling Act states: 230 ILCS 10/5 Sec. 5. Gaming Board. (b) The Board shall have general responsibility for the implementation of this Act. Its duties include, without limitation, the following: (18) To authorize a licensee to sell or serve alcoholic liquors, wine or beer as defined in the Liquor Control Act of 1934 on board a riverboat and to have exclusive authority to establish the hours for sale and consumption of alcoholic liquor on board a riverboat, notwithstanding any provision of the Liquor Control Act of 1934 or any local ordinance, and regardless of whether the riverboat makes excursions. The establishment of the hours for sale and consumption of alcoholic liquor on board a riverboat is an exclusive power and function of the State. A home rule unit may not establish the hours for sale and consumption of alcoholic liquor on board a riverboat. This amendatory Act of 1991 is a denial and limitation of home rule powers and functions under subsection (h) of Section 6 of Article VII of the Illinois Constitution. (19) After consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to establish binding emergency orders upon the concurrence of a majority of the members of the Board regarding the navigability of water, relative to excursions, in the event of extreme weather conditions, acts of God or other extreme circumstances.

This statutory change has created something of a dichotomy since the State liquor license allows service of alcohol only during navigation, while the State gambling law does not require riverboats which have liquor licenses to navigate.

This dichotomy was resolved with the passage of H.B.4462, which was signed into law as P.A. 92-0672, [235 ILCS 5/5-1(g)] which provides: (g) A boat license shall allow the sale of alcoholic liquor in individual drinks, on any passenger boat regularly operated as a common carrier on navigable waters in this State or on any riverboat operated under the Riverboat Gambling Act, which boat or riverboat maintains a public dining room or restaurant thereon.

  1. Riverboat gaming operations may not provide free alcoholic beverages to patrons, nor promote activities which encourage over consumption;
  2. Private functions must be paid for at full market value by a “bona fide” third party which is not directly or indirectly related to or associated with the riverboat gaming operation licensee;
  3. Meal package promotions are allowable on the land based operations associated with the riverboat gaming operation as long as the service of alcoholic liquor is part of the meal package and the meal package is purchased at a reasonable price by the patron.
  4. Riverboat gaming operations fulfill the requirement of having a public dining room if such operations include a land based dining facility [235 ILCS 5/5-1(g)].

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