Preckwinkle Revises Gambling Tax Proposal

Budget team projects $1.3 million in revenue under new tax

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday offered a revised version of her proposal to tax gaming machines.

Originally, Preckwinkle wanted to charge an $800 annual tax on every single machine in the county. This goes for the 1,000-plus slots at Rivers Casino, to all video gambling machines popping up at suburban mom-and-pop shops across the county.

Under the revised version, those smaller shops get a break and the bigger entities pick up the tab.

"Our view was that we didn't want to impact the small, neighborhood businesses and that the casinos could well afford it," said Preckwinkle.

If approved, each casino electronic gambling device would be taxed at $1,000 each year. The video slot machines, which are expected to turn up in smaller mom-and-pop shops, would be taxed at $200.

Gambling officials estimated the state could see as many as 75,000 machines within a year, according to the Associated Press. All machine owners, no matter what size of establishment or income, would be responsible for paying the tax on each machine.

Preckwinkle's proposal is part of her nearly $3 billion budget plan for Cook County, and her budget team has projected $1.3 million in revenues from this new gambling tax, but it is expected to fall to $1.2 million in FY2013.

Preckwinkle said it was concerns from county commissioners that forced her to tweak her original proposal.

The Illinois Gaming Board reported that the gambling machines at Rivers Casino in Des Plaines averaged more than $800 in revenue per day. Preckwinkle said that given the social toll gambling takes on society, it’s a “small price to pay.”

“We’ve looked at this in consideration of the daily revenues of machines and the impact that they have on public safety in Cook County. We planned to tax them a little more than one day’s revenue. It’s a small price to pay to help with the impact on crime, health and addiction,” she said.

Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims said Preckwinkles' proposal is something that commissioners, neighborhood establishments and even the gaming lobby could agree to.

“We know we have to do this. There isn’t a lot of places for Cook County to go after revenue, and we’re looking at all places we can get it and this just happens to be one of them,” Sims said.

The revised proposal would move the effective date of the proposed tax back to June 1, 2013, a move aimed at giving the Illinois Legislature an opportunity to make any revisions to the recently-enacted gaming law, including the possibility of locating a casino in Chicago.

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