Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has a tough job in front of her. Her city is desperate to drum up a new source of tax revenue; a problem that would seemingly be solved by Illinois’ gambling expansion bill, which would see a new potential casino in the Windy City. Problem is, analysts don’t expect a private operator to be attracted to the city, due to the tax structure laid out by the bill.
The Chicago Tribune reports Lightfoot went to the state capital, Springfield Illinois, to fight for a better tax structure for a Chicago based casino. By all reports, she didn’t get what she wanted.
At a press conference following the meetings, Lightfoot stressed how badly Chicago needs to get this deal done, as bond ratings agencies are nipping at their heels:
“We’ve got our work to do, but I feel like, particularly over the course of the last three-plus weeks that we’ve been working literally every single day on this, that we’ve made significant progress. Now, whether that progress turns into enough votes to get it passed out, that remains to be seen, but we’re certainly working very hard on that, along with others, to identify and address any lingering concerns.”
Under Govenor J.B. Pritzker’s gambling bill, Chicago would get one third of post-payout tax revenues from a new casino. But as opposed to other Illinois locations for casinos, Chicago taxes, combined with state taxes, have critics saying that a private casino may never happen. That goes a long way to explaining Lightfoot’s recent proposal that the government run the operation.
The negotiations on a new tax structure are complicated, as Chicago needs to receive its cut to help the bottom line, but state lawmakers are encouraging her to seek other sources of revenue to fix the city’s money problems, and want their own assurances if they were to help her out, including a guarantee that the casino will be located far away from existing operations.
“We think they should be looking downtown,” said Representative Will Davis. “They didn’t look downtown. They didn’t look anywhere between McCormick Place and Navy Pier. If Chicago touts itself as a tourist city, if that’s where all the tourists are, why would we not want to put that kind of facility in that box?”
For Lightfoot’s part, she’s worried that if they did guarantee a location for a casino, it may affect property taxes in the surrounding neighborhood. “Any talk about location is really premature because if we don’t get the tax structure fixed, there won’t be a Chicago casino,” she said.