No dice on 5 Chicago casino sites or 'onerous' taxes, study finds -- but mayor, gov not leaving the table

Posted8/14/2019 10:34 AM

The first roll in a bid to finally bring a casino to Chicago has come up snake eyes.

Financing for any one of five proposed casino sites studied on the South and West sides is "not feasible," because of an "onerous" tax structure established by the Illinois General Assembly, a consultant hired by the Illinois Gaming Board has concluded.


In a highly anticipated report expected to set the stage for a fix during the General Assembly's fall veto session, Union Gaming Analytics concluded that a Chicago casino "has the potential to become the highest grossing casino" in Illinois -- "significantly higher" than the state-leading Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, which generated $441.8 million last year -- but only if officials lighten the tax burden on developers.

It's a concern Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she long saw coming, but she insisted the city is far from folding on the gambling den that has eluded city and state leaders for decades.

"These were issues we flagged during the process," Lightfoot said of the tax structure. "What I look forward to is working with the governor and legislative leaders to roll up our sleeves and work hard on a bill that gets it right."

But a key suburban lawmaker who helped draft Illinois' massive gambling expansion law -- which allows for a 4,000-gaming position Chicago mega-casino that dwarfs any other in the state -- slammed the city's proposed sites and the study process, saying that altering the tax structure only helps developers.

"You have to see what location is the most profitable for a casino, and you use the money they make from the profits" to redevelop "a blighted area" elsewhere, said state Sen. Terry Link, a Vernon Hills Democrat. "The five locations mentioned would not maximize the profitability at all, in my mind."

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