Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker’s signature has helped a long-awaited casino project in Chicago get closer to reality.
A casino in Chicago would be a massive boost to the city’s budget, proponents say.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been eager to get the project underway. She chose five potential sites for a casino in July 2019. But even then, she noted that construction might not take place in any of her candidates for sites, all in the south or west parts of the city.
On Tuesday, Pritzker signed Senate Bill 516 to enact a tax schedule on adjusted gross receipts ranging from 22.5% to 77.4% on slots and 15-35% for table games, according to a report from the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago paper.
The Illinois Senate had passed the Chicago casino bill 42-14.
Lightfoot estimates that a casino in the Windy City could produce $1.2 billion in revenue, the Daily Herald story said. Bill sponsor Bill Cunningham, a Democrat from Chicago, said that the state’s capital programs will get $45 million just from licensing fees before the casino opens. Much of the revenue created by the casino would go to the state and some would be earmarked for needs in the city such as pensions for police and firefighters.
"Working with the General Assembly and Mayor Lightfoot, we accomplished what eluded so many others, and now this momentous legislation tackles key priorities for the state of Illinois — helping to ensure that Chicago can pay for first responders' pensions and alleviate the burden on property taxpayers, along with investing in universities and hospitals throughout the state," Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a news release. "Thousands of Illinoisans will be working on these projects, earning a good living that will support their families as we do the important work of rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and investing in the future."
The effort to get a casino project underway in Chicago has been quite a saga, even after Pritzker signed a bill last year legalizing sports gambling in Illinois.
After months of research and a survey of area residents, a study by Union Gaming Analytics concluded in August 2019 that there was no feasible spot for a Chicago casino project. That was because the Illinois General Assembly dictated a “very onerous” tax structure, according to UGA, a Las Vegas-based consultancy.
That led Lightfoot in October to propose either a private-public partnership or a privately owned casino to the legislators. Either way Lightfoot, a Democrat, wanted the legislature to approve lower taxes on a Chicago casino.
The bill that Pritzker signed Tuesday also provides relief for the state’s casinos in the wake of closures during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from Chicago NBC TV station WMAQ. It also would also allow the Illinois State Fair to have gaming machines.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Rivers Casino in Des Plaines opened its BetRivers.com online sportsbook, the first online sportsbook in Illinois.
Even in the suburbs, reckoning over a casino has raised delays in the timeline. For instance, South Suburban Development LLC changed its plans in February, altering the spot for a proposed casino in Chicago’s southern suburbs from Frankfort to Matteson because of concern over the proposed Frankfort location being too close to schools.