Recipients see drop in proceeds from riverboat gambling in Kane County

 
 
Updated 9/27/2017 5:29 PM

A dwindling share of riverboat gambling profits coming to Kane County fueled the lowest amount ever given back to local community agencies this year. But the county's own appetite for spending gambling funds shows no signs of satiation as officials moved forward nearly $4 million in spending plans Wednesday.

The county has always reserved the lion's share of its riverboat gambling proceeds to help fund its own operations. With video gambling tapping into riverboat profits -- and the county's cut -- county board members have discussed weaning themselves off the money from the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin. So far, only the portion of riverboat money given to external agencies has shrunk. This year, those external grants hit a record low of about $750,000.

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In contrast, the county will use about $4 million of riverboat money to help fund programs such as drug court, farmland preservation and the Kane Kares health program. That total is nearly identical to that of recent years. However, that wouldn't be possible without a healthy reserve.

The county received about $2.6 million as its share of riverboat gambling proceeds this year. But there is more than $5 million in the county's riverboat gambling reserve fund. Officials will tap into that reserve to supplement the check received this year. County staff also discovered some programs socked away a total of $1.5 million worth of unspent riverboat funds received in the previous year.

That finding raised questions about whether those programs needed the new money they applied for this year. Several programs have known, committed costs that have not yet been expended, accounting for the surplus cash. Farmland preservation, for example, has six farms it is in the process of purchasing for a total cost of $1.34 million. Those transactions often occur over several years as the preservation program leverages riverboat funds to get matching federal dollars for the land buys.

The county board's riverboat committee agreed to let the programs keep those unspent dollars and re-evaluate award amounts next year.

John Hoscheit, who leads the riverboat committee, told members of the finance committee -- which he also runs -- the riverboat grant spending that will come for a final vote in a couple of weeks is in line with a multiyear plan to ease reliance on gambling money. The plan is to reduce both the internal and external riverboat grant awards by 8 percent each year through fiscal year 2021. After that, with the reserves spent, the awards will be limited to no more than the actual check received from the Grand Victoria.

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