* Tribune editorial…
We’ve long contended that locating a casino in Chicago makes sense. Legal gambling tends to generate lots of tax revenue, which the city and state need. But the way Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the General Assembly have gone about structuring the expansion of casino gambling into Chicago is all wrong. They’ve set up this project to fail and likely have to rewrite their legislation.
A state-hired consultant from Las Vegas released a feasibility study Tuesday — one required by the gambling expansion law — that makes a very good case … for casino operators to avoid coming to Chicago. Taxes from gambling revenue and fees to be gobbled up by the city and state are so onerous, the study concludes, that the casino would generate very little profit, if any.
There’s actually a scenario in which, under the current legislation, the combination of taxes, fees and operating expenses “could exceed casino revenue,” the study warns.
Think about that. Illinois lawmakers, salivating over the prospect of easy money from gambling taxes, write and pass a law to allow a casino in Chicago. But they’re so greedy that the entire enterprise becomes financially untenable before it starts. Lenders wouldn’t want to finance it, and gambling companies wouldn’t want to run it.
The Tribune isn’t alone. There was plenty of hand-wringing in Chicago about the consultant’s report.
And for good reason. The consultant submitted the only valid bid because the law mandated a too-quick process. The Illinois Gaming Board, which is already stretched to the limit with other casino expansions and sports betting implementation, has 90 days to evaluate the study and make recommendations to the General Assembly about what changes need to be made, but the fall veto session starts in just 75 days.
* Not to mention that one of the most influential Illinois legislators on this topic is not yet convinced any changes need to be made…
“Call me skeptical,” said state Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, the chief sponsor of the bill authorizing the Chicago casino, as well as new gambling outlets in his home Lake County and other locales around the state. “They’ll have to do a lot more convincing to get me” to agree to cut the tax rates.
“All of us would like the largest profit margin we can,” added Link. Whoever builds the casino “is still going to make a lot of money.”
So now, we wait.