Suburban Chicago Casino Sues County Over Gambling Tax
A casino located in the near-Chicago suburb of Des Plaines is suing Cook County, the Chicago Tribune has reported. The parent company of Rivers Casino, the newest casino property in Illinois, wants a block a new tax proposed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on all video poker and slot machines on the casino floor.
New tax is part of 2013 county budget plan
Preckwinkle maintains that taxing the casino is necessary as the county faces a budget deficit, though Rivers claims that the tax is in violation of existing Illinois law. Preckwinkle proposed the video poker and slots taxes as a means of closing the budget gap while avoiding raising property taxes and levying other charges that might rankle residents, she said.
For its part, representatives for Rivers dispute the legality of the county charging $1,000 for each slot machine and $200 for each video poker annually.
“The county’s tax interferes with exclusive jurisdiction of the Illinois Gaming Board and proposes to create a new body of regulators,” said a spokesperson for the casino, Dennis Culloton.
“The tax also creates an arbitrary two-tier tax system between gambling devices in casinos and video gaming terminals in bars and restaurants without furthering the supposed goals of the tax,” Culloton told the Tribune in an email.
Good for the county, bad for business, says casino
While the casino tax may be good for the county’s budget – not to mention Preckwinkle’s public image – representatives from the casino say that an unfair tax is simply bad for business.
“Midwest will suffer irreparable injury in the absence of injunctive relief because its members will be required to pay excessive taxes and will incur heavy costs complying with the gambling machine tax,” the company asserts in its lawsuit, which was filed last Thursday.
Not so, says a representative for Preckwinkle. “The annual tax amounts to a little more than one day’s revenue and will be used to invest in public safety,” said Kristen Mack, Preckwinkle’s spokeswoman.
Overall, the amount of money at issue is relatively small. The county says it would expect to raise about $1.2 million this year and next, while the casino puts the figure closure to $1 million.
Not the only casino issue in the state
Though this latest scuffle is a relatively small one in terms of the larger Illinois casino debate, it is just the newest public battle as the Land of Lincoln grapples with what role casino gambling will play in its future. Earlier this spring, a measure that would have allowed for the construction of five new land-based casinos in the state died after failing to make it to a vote in the Illinois House of Representatives.
That bill, which sponsors say will be improved during the summer recess months and will be reintroduced during the fall legislative session, would have permitted a casino to be built in downtown Chicago, also part of Cook County. That casino, expected to be a direct competitor to casino properties located just over the border in neighboring Indiana, has major political backers such as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but has also proven to be a divisive issue among local residents.
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