Chicago Casino Already Behind Schedule, Misses Consultant Hiring Deadline

Posted on: July 12, 2019, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: July 12, 2019, 06:17h.

UPDATE (Friday evening) — The Chicago Sun-Times reported the Illinois Gaming Board awarded a consulting contract Friday afternoon to Union Gaming Analytics to conduct the feasibility study for a Chicago casino. The IGB received three bids, but the report noted two were rejected because they came in after the submission deadline. 

The Chicago casino authorized in the state’s far-reaching gaming expansion bill signed last month by Gov. JB Pritzker (D) has missed its first scheduled deadline.

Chicago casino Illinois gaming
The Chicago casino isn’t moving as quickly as Illinois Governor JB Pritzker might like. (Image: Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times)

The three-member Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) was supposed to select a “nationally recognized casino gaming feasibility consultant” within 10 days of the governor’s signature. Pritzker’s John Hancock was scribed onto Senate Bill 690 on June 28 – meaning the consultant hiring deadline was Monday.

“We are working through the process, and the Illinois Gaming Board is bound by the procurement code and the law,” gaming board spokesman Gene O’Shea told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The legislation earmarks up to $101,800 in consultant fees at the expense of the City of Chicago. The bill is one of four in the state’s $45 billion infrastructure package dubbed the “Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan.”

Along with the downtown Chicago casino resort, SB 690 authorizes smaller casinos in Waukegan, Rockford, South Suburbs, Williamson County, and Danville. The bill also legalizes sports betting and increases the tax on video gaming terminals at bars and restaurants by 3 percent.

Fast-Tracked Casino

Legalizing a land-based casino in Chicago has been a several decades-long struggle. Now, the state apparently feels it has no time to waste in bringing the resort to realization.

The bill requires the to-be-named consultant to submit their feasibility report to the IGB within 45 days. However, the agency has slashed that deadline to August 12. Upon receipt, the state gaming agency says it will take just 90 days to issue its verdict as to where the property will be built.

Pritzker has plenty of work to do, too. He’s tasked with naming a chairperson to the IGB and a fifth member. The board currently oversees the state’s 10 riverboat casinos.

Nothing is going to happen until licenses are issued,” the governor told reporters this week. “We need to make sure that the study is underway for the city of Chicago.”

Pritzker is also in a race against the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin, the tribal group that’s building a Native American casino just across the state line in Beloit. “We’re going to do everything possible to help Rockford beat Beloit and attract casino-goers from across the border,” Pritzker declared earlier this month.

Gaming Revenues

Illinois lawmakers are making a big bet that casinos can play a considerable role in the $45 billion the state hopes to generate in new revenue over the next six years. Slightly more than half, or $22.6 billion, of the infrastructure plan will be funded through the state’s bonding authority. Taxes and fees are also being raised on cigarettes, public parking, and car registrations and title fees.

Ongoing revenues from the gaming expansion are forecasted to deliver a minimum of $350 million in annual state taxes. That’s in addition to the more than $100 million in upfront licensing fees the new land-based casinos will be expected to pay.

It’s a risky assumption. As other states have experienced in recent years, pre-market casino projections have often fallen short.

In Massachusetts, for example, MGM Springfield said it would win at least $416 million in gross gaming revenue (not tax generation) in its first full year. With less than 60 days to go, the casino is short more than $200 million.