Des Plaines would win some, lose plenty with gambling expansion
Des Plaines stands to win some, and lose plenty, with the massive gambling expansion legislation that's on Gov. Pat Quinn's desk.
The city's new Rivers Casino is set to open mid-July.
Should Quinn approve the proposal allowing five new casinos and slot machines at Arlington Park and both Chicago airports, Des Plaines would get some relief in what the city owes the state, officials said Wednesday.
As part of the deal that landed Des Plaines the 10th and what was then the final casino license, the city agreed to pay the state $300 million over 30 years from casino revenues. With this legislation, Des Plaines would instead pay $180 million over 30 years — $6 million yearly. And, the Rivers Casino could add roughly 800 more gambling positions than currently allowed.
"We were able to fight for some relief," city spokesman Rudy Pamintuan said.
However, Des Plaines is seeking a further reduction in its commitment to the state, as well as other concessions should additional slots and casinos be approved statewide, he added.
Des Plaines also is required to give 40 percent of its share of casino revenues to disadvantaged communities.
"We're willing to honor that," Pamintuan said, adding though, "should this expansion … be signed by the governor, we believe that there should be a revenue share between the O'Hare positions and the surrounding communities of Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Elk Grove and Bensenville."
Quinn on Wednesday called the gambling expansion plan "excessive" but was noncommittal whether he would veto the legislation or ask lawmakers to make changes.
Pamintuan said city leaders are worried oversaturation of the market will have a negative effect on the city's revenues.
"The city of Des Plaines worked with an investor willing to risk in a challenging economy on what was supposed to be the last casino license," Pamintuan said. "Springfield has completely changed the landscape of the deal with this bill. Passing this expansion bill will set a poor precedent for Illinois recruiting investors to the state. If they can change the rules on one business, they can change the rules for any."
Under the bill, all casinos would be taxed at a lower rate, 30 percent down from 50 percent, a move designed to make the expansion more palatable to existing casinos.
The $445 million Rivers Casino is situated on roughly 20 acres at the corner of Des Plaines River Road and Devon Avenue.
"Certainly, the competition is a concern but I think we will be able to compete successfully given the facility that we are building and our location," said Greg Carlin, CEO of Rivers Casino developer Midwest Gaming & Entertainment. "We operate casinos in other competitive markets. We try to differentiate ourselves with great customer service. We provide a very high quality product."
The legislation also somewhat evens the playing field, Carlin said.
When Midwest Gaming won the bid for the 10th casino license in 2008, the developer agreed to pay $125 million upfront to the state. Midwest Gaming paid $50 million upon breaking ground.
"None of the first nine licensees paid anything for their licenses," Carlin said. "We're going to pay the same license fee that everybody else is paying for their licenses now."
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