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Cunningham succeeds in long effort to make Chicago casino fund police and fire pensions

cunningham 052320CHICAGO – Shortly after taking his seat in the Illinois Senate in 2013, Senator Bill Cunningham introduced legislation requiring the city of Chicago to dedicate future revenue from a proposed casino to the city’s financially strapped police and fire pension funds. At the time, the thought of Chicago ever getting legislative approval to open a casino seemed like a distant and remote possibility.

That possibility became a reality last week when Cunningham, serving as chief sponsor, helped push Senate Bill 516 through the General Assembly. The legislation made a number of changes to the state’s gaming laws and will enable Chicago to open its long-sought casino. When fully operational, the casino is expected to funnel more than $200 million dollars a year to Chicago’s police and fire pension funds.

“The idea of a Chicago casino was purely hypothetical in 2013, and some were convinced it would never happen,” said Cunningham, a Democrat who represents portions of Chicago and the southwest subrubs. “But we knew that was the best time to put a marker down, before a fight began over how to spend the money. If the casino ever opened, we didn’t want to see the new revenue going to newly created programs, not when the city owed billions of dollars to its pension funds.”

As chief sponsor of SB 516, Cunningham was able to ensure the intent of his 2013 legislation remained in the law. The measure passed both the Senate and House with comfortable, bipartisan majorities. As a result, the taxes collected by the city on all slot machines and table games in the new casino will go exclusively to Chicago’s police and fire pensions.

“This massive new revenue source won’t solve the pension funding crisis overnight,” Cunningham said. “But it is a big step in the right direction. And best of all, the new casino dollars will reduce the pressure placed on Chicago property taxes, which until now has been the only source of revenue for the police and fire pension funds.”

SB 516 is expected to be signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker in the coming weeks.