New Chicago Casino clears legislative hurdle and will drive ‘huge levels of infrastructure funding’, says Lightfoot.

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State lawmakers have approved a Chicago casino — a project decades in  the making — but there still is a ways to go before the casino’s location is settled and construction starts.

In a statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the legislature’s decision “represents a critical step toward shoring up our city’s pension obligations, as well as driving huge levels of infrastructure funding and fueling thousands of new jobs for all of Illinois.”

The measure received some bi-partisan support (the Illinois Senate approved it with a 42-14 vote) and, since it is backed by Gov. J. B. Pritzker, it will ultimately be signed into law. But a site for the new casino hasn’t been determined and it is unclear when construction will start.

Bill sponsor Sen. Bill Cunningham said the state’s capital programs will get $45 million upfront in licensing fees before the casino is even opened. And the state will receive an additional $700 million in a re-worked reconciliation fee, the Chicago Tribune reported. “It’s fair to say that over the next handful of years, the Chicago casino is going to provide hundreds of millions of dollars, indeed well over a billion dollars to our capital program.”

The new law restructured the Chicago casino tax rate structure that a feasibility study last year called “onerous.” It also changes the reconciliation fee payments for all casinos from two years to six years, and it allows for new gaming applications to have more time to pay licenses if the Illinois Gaming Board grants them. That would be switched from July 2020 to July 2021. The delay is intended to help casinos that are currently closed due to the pandemic, the published report says.

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