Cook County Considering New Tax On Video And Slot Gaming
In Cook County, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is pushing for a new tax structure to be put into place for video and slot gaming machines, but it would not be an even tax hike for all the providers of these games. At the moment, the sole casino in the county is the Rivers Casino in Des Plains.
Under the plan that Preckwinkle is proposing, the taxes on slot machines would increase to $1000 per game, while across the suburbs at smaller mom and pop establishments they would only be paying $200/unit.
The plan first called for an across the board $800 tax on all such machines annually, but there was pushback from the community and the county commissioners who were worried that the higher tax on machines would hurt small businesses like the neighborhood tavern, who often only have one or two machines.
The Rivers Casino has more than 1000 slot machines, and Perkwinkle says the higher fees on their machines represent just one days’ worth of income, and she says that that is a small price to pay given he social toll which gambling takes on society.
Opponents to the plan say that the disparity in fees would encourage smaller businesses across the suburbs would encourage those places to expand their machines, and make it harder to regulate what would essentially become ‘mini casinos’.
The increased tax on gaming machines is part of an overall plan she is proposing, and the gaming component of the plan would be expected to raise an extra 1 million dollars annually.
Rivers Casino opposes such a two tiered plan, and Perkwinkle admits she does not know whether she will have the votes to put the plan through. There is also a growing move to push Chicago’s ban on video gaming further out into the suburbs, which would render the tax plan moot.
In Chicago, there has been a back and forth on gambling issues – Governor Pat Quinn vetoed a major gambling expansion earlier in 2012, but after the November elections lawmakers will have a chance to override that veto, or to put together a package which the governor finds more palatable.
Many of the politicians deciding this and other matters after the November election are lame ducks, and will therefore have a freer hand when dealing with these issues. Chicago has for a long time resisted the efforts of the gaming industry to expand and loosen the rules, but thus far those efforts have proved fruitless.
Under Perkwinkle’s plan, the machine owners would be responsible for the taxes she wants to levy against them, but that is not the only thing Rivers Casino is dealing with as this year comes to a close – the parking and valet attendants are also thinking of organizing a union, a move that the mayor of Des Plains supports. 3 of the ten riverboat gambling facilities have unionized employees, but the only one in the Chicago area is the Hollywood Casino in Joliet.
Rivers Casino is the most lucrative in the state, though, grossing around $319 million in 2012. With so many things in motion, it will be the end of the year before many of these matters are settles, and Cook County, Chicago and Illinois is one state that so far as not made any of these decisions open to the public with ballot initiatives. Industry professionals are waiting to see what direction this important market place will move in.