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US – Union Gaming says Illinois laws will price investors out of Chicago casino

By - 14 August 2019

Illinois’ gaming laws will price casino groups out of competing in the race to operate in Chicago according to a feasibility carried out by Union Gaming Analytics.

The report says that the “onerous” tax and fee structure will make it difficult, if not impossible, to attract investors as they won’t might not make a profit for a decade.

To operate a casino, investor would need to pay a $250,000 application fee upfront, a $15m ‘reconciliation’ fee when the license is issued and up to $120m in gambling position fees. They would then be subject to an additional 33.3 per cent ‘privilege tax’ on top of an existing tax structure paid by all Illinois casinos.

Union gaming stated: “The reconciliation fee alone would wipe out any profits generated for many years, if not decades under the [Adjusted Gross Receipts] tax structure. The return on investment profile for all five sites is subpar, if not negative over the five years projected herein. The reconciliation fee not only magnifies the lack of feasibility, it also shuts the door on the ability of the developer to obtain financing.”

The results of the study, conducted by the Las Vegas-based Union Gaming Analytics, echo concerns from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on the ability of a casino to make money.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot had already expressed her concerns. She said: “We have been clear from day one that the creation of a new casino for Chicago has to be financially viable and address the revenue needs of the City of Chicago. While the study confirms our concerns about the tax structure that the legislature passed, we know that this can be addressed, and we look forward to working with the governor and legislative leaders to revise the legislation and ensure a new casino will be beneficial for Chicago’s communities and the entire state.”

Five sites had been put forward for consideration for the Chicago casino last month. They included: Harborside (111th Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway), the former Michael Reese hospital (31st Street and Cottage Grove); Pershing and State; Roosevelt and Kostner; and the former US Steel parcel (80th Street and Lake Shore Drive).

However, the mayor said: “There’s no location or combination of amenities that makes this deal one that can actually get financed. That’s exactly the point that we made to the legislative folks who were putting this together. And now, I think we’ve got a definitive, independent judgment that makes that clear.”

Mayor Lightfoot also highlighted ‘the incredible upside potential of a casino in Chicago that will dwarf the revenues that have been generated by any other casino in the state by many magnitudes.’

“Getting this right is in everybody’s interest, not just Chicago, she added. “This is something that is going to generate, if it’s done right, substantial revenues for the state.”

In a recent survey, the largest percentage of respondents, 36 per cent, said the best location for the Chicago casino was near downtown.

Survey participants were also asked the most important factors in selecting a site for a casino, and what amenities they would like to see built with a casino. Restaurants came in first at 58 per cent, followed by theater/live entertainment at 51 per cent, and a hotel at 41 per cent.

The expansion also allows for six additional casinos in Illinois, located in Chicago, Danville, Waukegan, Rockford, south suburban Cook County and Williamson County in southern Illinois.

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