Illinois lawmakers remove key obstacle in decadeslong efforts to build Chicago casino

Monday 25th May 2020

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A special session in Springfield wrapped up around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday.

The Illinois House passed a $40 billion budget and approved legislation to change the tax structure to allow for a casino in Chicago.

RELATED: Illinois House passes $40 billion budget relying heavily on federal funding

Almost from the moment last year's gaming bill was approved, casino owners argued the tax structure that had been established for Chicago was simply too onerous.

"If there is a jackpot. It's going to be a jackpot way down the road," said ABC 7 Political Analyst Laura Washington.

It has been more than two months since the state's casinos have gone dark.

There is no guarantee that people will want to go back in large numbers until there is a vaccine. But Saturday night, in a historic special session, the Illinois Legislature removed a key obstacle in Chicago's decadeslong ambition to open a casino of its own.

"The virus is driving a lot of things happening in Springfield legislatively. There is a great financial need. There's a bunch of holes that need to be filed and legislators and the mayor are looking everywhere to fill them," Washington said.

A Chicago-based casino is seen as a potential boon- creating jobs within the city, providing much needed revenue to meet its pension fund responsibilities but also providing desperately needed money to fund the state as a whole.

"We're going to have a funding source for the vertical capital, which means, when we talk about capital we're talking about buildings, structures, parks. This is the main funding source for that," said State Rep. Bob Rita, a Democrat who represents Blue Island.

It may be years before these funds materialize however.

Republican lawmakers want to know where the state is going to get the money to pay for the $40 billion budget passed over the weekend. It is a budget that is slightly higher than last year, even in the wake of tremendous pandemic-driven revenue losses.

"This is all in the frame of a vastly increased need of families across the state," Pritzker said. "We're going to have to revisit our budget if the federal government doesn't come through."

The budget also includes up to $5 billion dollars in loans the governor hopes to pay off with additional aid from the federal government. There is no guarantee however that money will come, and if it does, what strings might be attached to it.

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