Lawmakers look to rework gaming law for financially feasible Chicago casino

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The betting line on a Chicago casino just got a little better. A leading state lawmaker said he believes the gaming law can be reworked to make it financially feasible to attract investors.

The city and state will share tax revenue from a Chicago casino, but reducing what a consultant's report called the "onerous" tax rate in the current law may require Chicago to give up more of its portion of the casino revenue than the rest of the state.

The gaming bill that authorized a Chicago casino established a 72 percent tax rate, which would effectively making it impossible for investors to make enough money. Mayor Lightfoot has been pushing lawmakers to redo the bill and now that appears to be in the cards.

The Illinois Gaming Board unanimously passed a resolution recommending the "General Assembly consider making modifications to the terms of a Chicago casino license."

"It validates what we knew all along. We just have to roll up our sleeves and come up with a structure that works for the state, the city and importantly for a gaming operator to be able to get a casino up and running," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Lightfoot said there will have to be shared sacrifice, but the leading sponsor of the gaming legislation suggested Chicago's share of that sacrifice may need to be greater because anticipated gambling revenue was such a big chunk of the state capital bill.

"If we take less money from the state we're losing out on our ability to do a lot of these repairs for bridges, schools, or building new schools or things that are desperately needed," said State Senator Terry Link, (D) Gurnee.

However, Link also expressed confidence that things can be worked out in the veto session next month.

"I think that we have the possibility of getting this done in this session and I look forward to it because I want to see the groundbreaking of the Chicago casino in the very near future." Link said.

Lightfoot, who is counting on casino revenue to help with Chicago's $838 million budget hole, said her finance team meets several times a week, and that layoffs are not in their plans.

"Obviously everybody knows that we've got to be as efficient as we can in the delivery of services, but we're not talking about layoffs," Lightfoot said.

There is one complicating factor if lawmakers do rewrite the gaming bill to help Chicago, the other communities where casinos were authorized may be asking, "where's ours?"

With a Chicago casino projected to generate $800 million a year, all sides have a reason to make it happen.
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