Preckwinkle considers $800 gaming machine tax

October 15, 2012

With her 2013 budget address coming up this week, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has given a few hints as to what her office won't do to fill the $115 million dollar shortfall.

"Everything is on the table, with the exception of property and sales tax increases," Preckwinkle told reporters last week.

But as for any other details...

"My budget staff insists that I’m not to give any numbers because they’re still fiddling with things," she said.

As for other items that are on the table, Preckwinkle spokesman Owen Kilmer said Monday that they're "considering" a tax on gaming machines. If passed, the tax would require an annual $800 dollar sticker on any machines that pay out — like slots or video gaming.

But according to Illinois State Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie), the idea doesn't make economic sense. Lang has been a long-time proponent of gambling expansion across the state. 

"Video gaming was put in place to be one of the funding sources for the capital bill that we passed 3 years ago," he said. "Anything that taxes additionally these devices is a hit on those local businesses...it means less people employed, it means less economic development and it means less money for the local municipalites that were supposed to get a local share."

Kilmer said the tax would raise about $1 million for the county, a large chunk of which would likely come from the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. According to the latest report from the Illinois Gaming Board, Rivers has 1,044 electronic gaming devices, which could cost them more than $835,000 if the proposal becomes part of Preckwinkle's budget.

Rivers Casino spokesman Dennis Culloton declined to comment on the proposal.

"This is the first we're hearing of this and we'll respond after we get a chance to review the proposal," Culloton said. 

According to Kilmer, the county is also considering renting out the 34th and 35th floors of the George Dunne county office building and a tax on guns and ammunition that Preckwinkle floated last week. 

The 2013 budget gap was originally estimated at almost $270 million dollars, but Kilmer says the county is expecting federal reimbursment funds from the Affordable Care Act. Under what's known as the 1115 waiver, the county early-enrolled uninsured patients that would have be eligible for Medicaid in 2014.

Preckwinkle's budget address is scheduled for Thursday.