Chicago Casino Comes With Significant Cost - NBC Chicago
Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Chicago Casino Comes With Significant Cost



    Chicago Casino Comes With Significant Cost
    AP/Carolyn Kaster

    While there's a lot of talk about expanded gaming being a boon for state finances, it also comes with significant cost.

    The license for a Chicago-based casino would be owned by the city, and it would be up to the city to finance the project.

    Reminder: Chicago is facing a roughly $700 million budget hole in 2012, according to budget estimates.

    The Chicago casino license would automatically incur a $100 million bill just for the 4,000 gambling positions.

    Under the legislation, every casino gets an allocated number of gambling positions.  Every license would get 2,000 positions except for Chicago, which would get 4,000 to be divvied up between the Chicago-based casino and the slots at O'Hare and Midway airports.

    Chicago can grow its number of positions if another casino opts not to buy additional positions that would become available to them under the expanded bill.  For example, Harrah's Metropolis Hotel & Casino, near the Kentucky border, currently has 1,200 positions. If it doesn't want to pony up the cash for the additional 800 positions, the state gaming board, which owns the positions, could sell them to Chicago if it coughed up the cash.

    Additionally, Chicago will have to make a big payout in the fourth year of operation -- a reconciliation fee -- equal to 75 percent of the casino's top-grossing year out of those first four years.

    So how would the city pay for it? 

    "The city will have to probably bond out the purchase of the property and the building costs," explained the House bill's sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

    On the flip side, the city will get to collect tax revenue and sales receipts. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city is losing $20 million a month to Hammond, Ind., and its Horseshoe Casino.

    "There's no question in my mind, that if the city didn't feel this was a good investment, they wouldn't have been in Springfield trying to pass the bill," Lang said.

    If Gov. Pat Quinn signs the legislation into law, Mayor Rahm Emanuel would pick a five-person casino authority.  That board would choose the location for the casino and the gaming operator, both of which would need to be approved by the state gaming board.