Des Plaines residents could see improvements to streets, the sewer system and other capital improvements as a result of a plan for spending gaming revenue from Rivers Casino, 3000 S. River Road, approved by city council at a meeting on June 4.
Aldermen passed a non-binding resolution that will help guide allocation of gaming tax revenue in the 2013.
The policy outlines that gaming tax revenue can be spent to pay down debt, on capital infrastructure projects and lobbying costs in Springfield.
Rivers Casino brought in $10.8 million in gaming tax revenues from July to December 2011 and Des Plaines will receive $3.7 million of that.
Aldermen who voted in favor of the policy said that it promotes transparency and enables officials to carefully budget varying annual funds received from Rivers Casino.
“This is not a revenue source that can be depended on and we need to put ourselves in a position where we can succeed,” said Third Ward Alderman Matt Bogusz, who also heads the finance and administration committee.
The measure passed with a 5-3 vote, with Fourth Ward Alderman Dick Sayad, Fifth Ward Alderman Jim Brookman, and Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Walsten voting against the policy.
“This policy is too limited for me,” Walsten said, adding that the language “pigeonholes” aldermen. “This ties our hands to other creative thinking.”
Critics of the bill said the policy is too restrictive and that wording should be changed to allow for other projects. Walsten suggested putting money aside for luring new businesses into Des Plaines.
About a dozen residents showed up in support of the policy and many broke into applause when the measure was passed.
“This money needs to be committed for the people,” said resident Christopher Schmidt, who lives on Second Avenue.
Many residents who rose to comment at last night’s meeting noted that aldermen in the past did not seem to honor what residents wanted, which in this case is infrastructure projects and debt pay down.
“This is another level of safety for citizens of Des Plaines,” said resident Norbert Paprocki of the policy.
During the course of the discussions, many aldermen expressed concern that more casinos could be approved by the state legislature and that they weren’t happy with their current agreement with the state.
“[There was a] ploy to get us to bend over a little further,” Walsten said of the agreement, adding that the nine other communities with casino licenses did not have to give a share to needy communities.
Bogusz had no comment as to whether the city of Des Plaines would pursue legal action if more casino licenses were approved.