Chicago casino developer pays city $40 million, as promised

Bally’s, the casino operator chosen to bring a gambling mecca to Chicago’s River West neighborhood, has made its first payment of $40 million to the city – money that is intended to help huge pension holes in future budgets.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office was eager to release the payout this week, negotiated as part of the casino’s bidding process, as she kicks her re-election campaign into high gear. But even as the casino brings in the $200 million a year in tax revenue its supporters expect to generate later in the decade, City Hall still faces major financial challenges in the future.

“This is the casino’s first installment on Chicago’s retirement future and a clear indication of the city’s commitment to its hard-working public safety professionals,” Lightfoot’s office said in a statement. . “In the years to come, the Chicago casino is expected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the city, much of it for pensions.”

A Chicago casino had eluded mayors for decades, but Lightfoot was able to convince state lawmakers to award a coveted license to a city vendor, giving him by far his biggest legislative victory in Springfield and a opportunity to raise millions in revenue for the city.

Lightfoot has sold the casino’s efforts as a way to address pension deficits, but as city chief financial officer Jennie Huang Bennett conceded to aldermen a few weeks ago, the casino will pay around 9% of the the city’s $2.3 billion pension contribution. While this is a significant portion of revenue, future mayors and aldermen will still need to find money for city pensions and the budget, which could result in a property tax increase or an increase in fees.

Some critics questioned whether the casino would generate its estimated revenue and said the projections seemed unrealistic.

Bally’s Casino – planned along Grand Avenue where the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center print shop now stands – edged out two other finalists by offering an upfront payment of $25 million to the city’s coffers as ” impact fee”. Bally’s later increased this amount to $40 million.

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Post expires at 8:42pm on Tuesday June 28th, 2022