Dwindling returns from the Grand Victoria in Elgin meant a much smaller check than Kane County officials expected to receive from the riverboat casino this year.
An 18 percent difference between what the county expected and what it received might force county board members to take steps to end reliance on the funds. That's a change that's gotten only lip service until now.
Grand Victoria diverts 20 percent of its profits to Kane County, the Grand Victoria Foundation and other charitable efforts. In the casino's heyday, that agreement funneled about $12 million into the county's coffers.
This month, the dollar amount on the annual check to the county read $3.26 million. That's nearly $678,000 less than Grand Victoria officials estimated -- almost a year ago -- it would send the county this year.
For perspective, the county traditionally takes about $1 million of the annual proceeds and turns it into grants for local nonprofits and municipal infrastructure projects.
New competition from the casino in Des Plaines, video gambling and a slow economy are all likely reasons for the drop in the Grand Victoria's revenue, according to a city of Elgin budget document.
City officials have also documented the casino's woes. In 2009, the city budgeted for $22.15 million in revenue it receives through a property lease agreement and admission and gaming taxes. Elgin's 2014 budget calls for casino revenue of only $13.17 million.
The call for Kane County to begin emancipating itself from casino dollars first came in 2011. That's when former Chairman Karen McConnaughay deemed the gambling revenues "an unstable, unreliable fund source."
Three years later, the county has, in some respects, increased its reliance on that cash flow.
Last August, county board members agreed to a request by Chairman Chris Lauzen to add two community outreach coordinators to the payroll. The idea was, and is, to build social media networks that connect county residents with local events, government officials and each other. Lauzen wanted to use riverboat money to pay the salaries of those positions.
Then, in October, board members voted to bail out the Kane County Forest Preserve District with a $150,000 riverboat grant. Forest commissioners, who also serve as county board members, were set to increase the district's property tax levy until the riverboat money was applied to the budget.
Those kinds of monetary ties must be severed, county board member Jesse Vazquez said.
"We've known for the last three or four years that this was going to happen, and here we are with another year of less revenues," Vazquez said. "It's an unreliable source of funding. We've been bridging budgetary gaps with that money, but the gap is getting wider. Using those revenues for operations is a big no-no. We can't continue to do that."
Casino: County still depends on riverboat fund despite warnings of its instability