CHICAGO — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has proposed tweaking a tax on gaming devices to ease the burden on "mom-and-pop establishments" such as neighborhood bars.
Preckwinkle's original 2013 budget proposal, submitted earlier this month, called for an $800 tax on each gaming device in the county, with currently more than 1,000 in use. Joined by Commissioners Deborah Sims and John Fritchey, both of Chicago, Preckwinkle altered that Tuesday to make it a $1,000 tax on slot machines and a $200 tax on video poker machines.
"What we wanted to do is make a significant distinction between casino operations and mom-and-pop taverns," Preckwinkle said. "We didn't want to impact the small businesses, and the casinos could well afford it."
The altered tax will bring in an estimated $1.2 million, $100,000 less than the original proposal. Combined with a shift in the so-called Buy Local Tax allowing a higher exemption, that creates a $1.3 million budget shortfall. Preckwinkle said she expects the county board to pass the revenue part of the budget later this week, with the overall budget to follow "subsequently."
"We're looking at a variety of options" to address the shortfall, said Budget Director Andrea Gibson. Suggesting cuts, she said they would be looking at moves that would have "the least service impact."
Fritchey, a former member of the General Assembly, was instrumental in adding a clause in the tax on gaming devices shifting the effective date to June 1, in case the state legislature should pass a bill allowing a Chicago casino early next year.
Fritchey and Preckwinkle joined only days after the commissioner announced a proposal to adopt new gun restrictions in lieu of Preckwinkle's proposed tax on guns and ammo. Preckwinkle said Tuesday she would continue to talk with Fritchey, and she expected them to reach a compromise later this week.