Legal troubles remain for Chicago casino plan

Chicago casino plan

While gaming lovers across Chicago are getting ready to hit the city’s brand new casino, obstacles still remain for those approving the plans.

When Illinois lawmakers approved plans for a Las Vegas-style venue, the city of Chicago was ready to be the largest American city with a casino.

There are multiple problems to sort out before construction can begin, however, as the city must convince lawmakers to approve a plan that makes the casino more profitable. Moreover, they still need to choose a location for it.

That’s right- while lawmakers have granted the proposal for just how many gambling positions will be in the building (up to 4,000), the area for the building is still up for grabs.

A feasibility study required by law has evaluated five sites, including the former US Steel plant site on the city’s far south side, but recommended another. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said the downtown area is also still very much in play.

The proposal was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker back in June of this year in the hope of a funding source for the city’s $45 billion capital plan. Revenue would be used to pay down pension debt.

Former Mayor Richard M. Daley floated a plan in the early 1990s, but nothing ever came of the plans. Lightfoot has favored a casino to boost financially-struggling neighborhoods and bring economic stability.

Legislators have approved five other casinos for Illinois, but it’s clear that the ball really needs to start rolling. A study from Union Gaming Analytics has said two slot sites in Chicago’s airports alone will have the ability to bring in $37 million annually.

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The problem is that estimates for how much these casinos will actually make vary – although experts agree that the largest of the six will easily outperform River Casinos, the state’s highest-grossing venue.

That casino, situated in the suburb of Des Plaines, generated $440 million in profit last year with its 1,200 gambling positions. A casino in Chicago has actually proved to be so threatening that Indiana has started the construction of a Hard Rock Casino in Gary to combat losses.

Sportsbetting has also been recently legalized in Indiana, meaning Chicagoans no longer have to visit Las Vegas to bet on their favorite games.

Not everything is on-side with the new plans, however.

The feasibility study which estimated one site could gross over $950 million by year five, has said that the “onerous” tax and fee structure set by the city would rule plans “not financially feasible.”

The total tax a Chicago casino would have to pay amounts to a huge 72 percent- equating to 39 percent on revenue and another 33.3 percent on privilege tax for operating within the city. The rate, which solely applies to the Chicago casino, was written into plans after lawmakers initially rejected casino proposals.

Lawmakers have adjourned their session to fix the rates, with Lightfoot postponing the issue to January. She said, “With so much potential on the line, our city and state deserve to get this done and get this done right.”

The Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems has also stood against proposals, saying casinos “prey on the poor and enable — if not tacitly encourage — gambling addiction.”

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And while some neighborhoods are battling to be the location of the huge venue, a few don’t even want to profit from it. A Chicago alderwoman whose ward covers a proposed site in a historically black neighborhood slammed the idea, saying it was akin to “putting a casino in Harlem.”

Whatever one’s stance on the proposals, it’s clear that it’s going to be some time before we see a casino in Chicago.