House, Senate votes improve odds for Chicago casino
Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, answers questions during debate of SB 516, a gambling bill involving a Chicago casino, during an extended session of the Illinois House of Representatives on Saturday at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield. (Pool photo by Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]
Bill reworks tax structure, heads to governor
By REBECCA ANZEL
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — The General Assembly on Saturday approved adjustments to the tax framework of an expected Chicago casino because its success benefits the whole state, lawmakers from both parties said.
The bill, approved by the House on Saturday afternoon and by the Senate later in the night, advances to Gov. JB Pritzker, who is a supporter of the measure and told reporters Thursday he “encouraged” representatives and senators to ensure the bill’s success.
Legislators approved a comprehensive gambling expansion last spring. But a feasibility study performed that summer concluded a Chicago casino would not be viable under the tax structure originally passed.
Changes were meant to “make this work for Chicago,” House sponsor Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, said on the floor before the vote.
They also were designed to bring jobs to and stimulate the economy for the rest of Illinois through the “historic” capital infrastructure law also passed last year, Democratic Rep. Jay Hoffman, of Swansea, said.
“Regardless of where you are in the state, this money is going to go toward projects in your area,” he said. “The revenues from the Chicago casino and other casinos as well as other changes that have been made are going to allow us to come out of this pandemic to create jobs, economic development and put people back to work.”
Democratic Sen. Bill Cunningham, of Chicago, added that “projects are not going to be funded anywhere near the level we need to unless we pass this bill.”
Under the gambling expansion bill enacted last year, lawmakers authorized six more land-based casinos, including one in Chicago. However, according to the bill, in addition to the taxes and fees that all casinos pay, the Chicago casino would be required to pay an additional 33.3 percent “privilege tax.”
That would bring the effective tax rate on a Chicago casino to roughly 72 percent, the report stated.
The tax structure would now be graduated — the more money a casino makes, the more it will have to pay in city and state taxes.
For example, if the casino makes up to $25 million from table games, it would owe 15 percent in taxes — 8.1 percent to Illinois and 6.9 percent to the city. If the casino makes more than $325 million, it would owe 35 percent in taxes — 18.9 percent to the state and 16.1 percent to Chicago.
The measure also extends the licensing process for a casino in Danville, and requires the Department of Agriculture to purchase at least one video gambling terminal to be installed at state fairgrounds in Springfield and Du Quoin.
It passed in the House by a vote of 77-32, and the Senate by 42-14. The General Assembly was in extended special session Saturday, the fourth day of its first time in Springfield since March 5.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.