Rahm Emanuel Pitches Lawmakers on Casino to Fund Chicago Pensions


Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to build a city-run casino, and he wants to use a portion of the resulting revenue to pay off the city’s pension obligations.

But to do so, he has to go through state lawmakers, and he’ll likely face an uphill battle in doing so – even if the casino is expected to bring in over $450 million a year in revenue, of which $200 million will go to the state for taxes, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

From the Sun-Times:

Emanuel is back in the dealer’s chair, this time trying to sell legislators on a Chicago casino he wants to use to shore up the city’s severely underfunded police and firefighter pension funds.

Emanuel has personally discussed a proposed city casino with all four legislative leaders, as well as with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and his staff, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times. The talks have come as two legislative hearings on gambling expansion are scheduled in downtown Chicago over the next two weeks, with the first set for 10 a.m. Monday at the Bilandic Building.

There’s a lot riding on the mayor’s casino hopes.

Under Illinois law, the city expects to pay $839 million into its public safety pension funds next year, up $550 million from this year. In all, the city’s 2016 budget deficit stands at $300 million, leaving the mayor with few revenue-generating options short of a property-tax hike he’s trying to avoid.

State legislators — working under a May 31 deadline to wrap up the legislative session — are aiming to fill a $6 billion budget hole. So they have as strong an incentive as Emanuel to use gambling to try to fill some of that void.

Still, history isn’t on the mayor’s side when it comes to getting a casino deal done. Dozens of gambling-expansion bills have been offered and then fizzled out in Springfield in the past two decades.

According to the Sun-Times, lawmakers are considering two bills that would establish a state-run casino in Chicago. But Emanuel is pushing hard to a city-run casino, and has submitted a proposal to that end, which lawmakers are currently working over.


Photo by  dktrpepr via Flickr CC License

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