Chicago Casino a Reality as Governor Signs New Law

  • Bill reworks prohibitive tax structures, makes it viable for downtown Chicago casino to operate
  • SB 516 expected to boost construction, create thousands of jobs statewide
  • Relief during COVID-19 as it reopens casino license applications, extends payment periods
  • Chicago casino funds to contribute towards criminal justice system, City of Chicago pensions
  • Law will also allow operation of video gaming terminals at Springfield, Du Quoin State Fairs 
illuminated Chicago skyline
Illinois Governor J.B. Prtizker signed a new law with reworked tax structures, paving the way for Chicago’s first downtown casino. [Image:]

New law addresses prohibitive tax issue

Chicago’s first casino became a viable reality Tuesday after Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 516 into law. Buoyed by the state’s $45bn Rebuild Illinois plan, which allows for one resort casino to operate in downtown Chicago, the new legislation reworks prohibitive tax structures, allows gaming at state fairs, and builds in relief during the pandemic.

Gov. Pritzker tweeted that law allowing a casino to operate in Chicago will provide sweeping benefits across the state:

Financially viable Chicago casino

Gov. Pritzker’s signature comes after both the state Senate and House passed Senate Bill 516 in May, removing the main barrier preventing a casino from operating within Chicago city limits.

The breakthrough follows The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB)’s commissioning of a feasibility study into casino development in Chicago. This saw Las Vegas-based gaming consulting firm Union Gaming outline many areas of concern, in particular the 72% tax rate that the previous legislature imposed on would-be Chicago casinos.

In a joint press release, Mayor Lori Lightfoot thanked her contemporaries, business groups, and community organizations, saying their “collaboration and partnership was instrumental in turning a financially viable Chicago casino into a reality and strengthening the fiscal path for our city’s future.”

tax relief for existing casinos

The new bill also sets new Privilege Tax schedules for the Chicago casino and provides tax relief for existing casinos in the state, while also extending the state’s sports wagering license fee for a year.

New jobs across Illinois

Senate Bill 516 will also fund critical infrastructure and is expected to create thousands of jobs across the state, in addition to boosting Illinois’ capital construction program and alleviating pension schemes.  

thousands of jobs across the state

“While […] providing a measure of financial stability to Chicago’s public safety pensions, it’s also worth noting that Chicago casino dollars will reduce the pressure placed on city property taxes, which until now have been the only source of revenue for the police and fire pension funds,” said State Senator Bill Cunningham in the joint release.

Relief amid the pandemic

The freshly stamped bill also provides relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes ordering the IGB to reopen its license application process for new casino owners, extending payment reconciliation periods, and earmarking 0.5% of the Chicago casino’s Annual General Revenue for criminal justice system enhancements and paying City of Chicago pensions.

Other changes to legislation enable the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) to operate video gaming terminals at state fairs. The IDOA will appoint IGB-licensed terminal operators who will be allowed to run up to 50 video gaming terminals at Springfield and 30 at Du Quoin.