Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed casino isn’t looking promising, according to an independent report put together by Union Gaming Analytics.
The Las Vegas-based consultants were hired at an estimated cost of $100,000 to review five proposed sites around the city as potential casino locations. The five areas, all selected by the Mayor and her team as neighborhoods in need of revitalization, included a decommissioned hospital, a golf course, and even a former steel plant. (The hospital won.)
In the end, however, the report also showed that the locations were mostly irrelevant. The reality is that the proposed gross tax rate of roughly 72 percent dooms any gambling facility before it even begins.
“The current regulatory construct, namely the highest effective gaming tax and fee structure in the US, makes any casino project – regardless of location – generally not financially feasible,” the report says.
The consulting firm even toyed with the idea of moving the proposed casino downtown, to more tourist-friendly areas with heavier foot traffic. While the projections were more favorable, the high tax rate left incredibly thin profit margins, and that was before factoring in the exorbitant application fees.
Despite the troubling report, Mayor Lightfoot remains undeterred in her quest to bring a gambling facility to her city.
“These were issues we flagged during the process,” she said. “What I look forward to is working with the governor and legislative leaders to roll up our sleeves and work hard on a bill that gets it right.”
The Mayor also acknowledged that the downtown Chicago was still a possibility, and has about three months before the October sessions to work with lawmakers on any potential changes to the tax structure.
Illinois currently has ten commercial casinos, all operating as riverboat casinos. As a result, Chicago residents must choose between casinos in nearby Des Plaines, or across state lines in northwest Indiana.
With proposed casino expansion and a centrally-located Chicago gaming property, however, lawmakers are hoping to keep tax dollars in their own state.
In 2018, Illinois had gross gaming revenue of $1.37 billion, with the state collecting $462.2 million in taxes.