Des Plaines city officials are trying to figure out how and when to disburse nearly $2.6 million in gambling tax revenues from the new Rivers Casino.
The casino, which opened July 18 on 20 acres off Devon Avenue and Des Plaines River Road, was the most lucrative in the state in its first full month of operation. It edged out Elgin's Grand Victoria Casino whose revenue was down 24 percent compared to August 2010.
In all, Rivers brought in $34.1 million in adjusted gross receipts -- money bet on the casino floor -- nearly twice the August receipts of the Grand Victoria, which was $18.5 million, according to the Illinois Gaming Board's monthly report.
Des Plaines' take was $1.7 million for August, and roughly $874,000 for the two weeks the casino was open in July.
The city still must pay the state $10 million yearly for the next 30 years from its share -- per the agreement that landed Des Plaines the 10th and final riverboat gambling license -- and disburse 40 percent of the remainder to 10 disadvantaged communities chosen by the state.
City officials are trying to figure out when to make that first $10 million payment.
Acting City Manager Jason Slowinski said officials may wait until the 2012 calendar year to begin paying the city's obligations to the state and other communities since Des Plaines will receive less than six months revenue in 2011.
"My preference is that we do it on a calendar year because then it coincides with the budget process," Slowinski said. "What I would propose to do is to start our 30-year commitment on Jan. 1, 2012."
In that case, the city won't have to pay the $10 million to the state until the end of the 2012 fiscal year, he said.
"Either way, we are paying $10 million and we're paying 40 percent of what's left. It's just a matter of when you do it," Slowinski said.
City attorneys are working with the Illinois Gaming Board to determine if that would be acceptable.
"No one's done this before so the state hasn't said this is what you should do," Slowinski said. "And they haven't given us a lot of direction as far as how to work that issue out."
The city receives a check every month from the Rivers Casino gaming tax revenue. It also will receive a one-third share of the admissions tax -- $1 for every $3 charged per visitor -- on a quarterly basis.
It will still be awhile before Des Plaines can start using its remaining share of casino revenues for infrastructure projects and other improvements as city leaders had hoped.
"There's a misconception out there that once we receive these checks, we can start spending money," Slowinski said. "We'll conservatively try to estimate some numbers for what we (would) receive. It's just a figure that's in the budget as a placeholder, but we're not going to be spending anything out of it until we know what that full year looks like. Much depends on the casino's business going forward for the next 10 months."
City officials are optimistic that the Rivers Casino will generate $325 million to $400 million in its first year of operation, though a bipartisan state commission came up with a more conservative estimate of $260 million.