New restrictions placed on licensed gaming operations at all Illinois casinos and video gaming locations to combat a resurgence of COVID-19 are expected to significantly affect tax revenues received for the city of Joliet from Harrah‘s and Hollywood casinos.
According to the source, under “normal” conditions, tax revenue from the two casinos, operated by Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Penn National Gaming, Inc. respectively, provides the city with monthly revenue of about $1.3 million.
City revenues were reportedly hit the fastest and hardest in the spring when casinos closed, with the loss of casino revenue accounting for the lion’s share of a $6.6 million gap in the budget the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Will & Kankakee counties:
And now, the state has put in place a series of more stringent regulations in the counties of Will and Kankakee (Region 7) at casinos, restaurants, and bars to slow the proliferation of the novel coronavirus, after that Northeast region of The Prairie State reportedly posted an 8 percent test positivity rate for COVID-19 for three consecutive days.
The gain makes the region the second of Illinois‘ 11 regions, as defined by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan, to backtrack from the phase 4 rules that are currently observed throughout the state.
Wednesday saw the mitigation effort take effect, with the two casinos now being restricted to the hours of 8am to 11pm daily, and going from the 50 percent capacity they were allowed to operate from July 1st, 2020, when they reopened, to just 25 percent occupancy. Masks are also mandatory.
The restrictions will reportedly be in effect for 14 days, after which, if there is no improvement in the region’s coronavirus metrics, the state may impose even more stringent regulations.
However, if by the end of the two-week period positivity rates decline to 6.5 percent, the region will be able to return to Pritzker’s phase four rules under his reopening plan, which came into effect statewide on June 25. The mitigation measures will remain in effect if at the end of the two weeks the positivity rate falls between 6.5 percent and 8 percent.
According to the news agency, Joliet City Councilman Michael Turk, who is chairman of the council’s Finance Committee, said he expects the new restrictions on casinos and restaurants will have some impact on the city budget and that he’s “hoping it’s only for the two weeks they’re talking about.”
Last week, Finance Director James Ghedotte reportedly told the Finance Committee that at the end of July, casino tax revenue in the city of Joliet was just 42 percent of what it received for the same period in 2019. In dollars, Ghedotte said, that was $5 million less than what the city received in casino taxes in 2019. He said, “as of now, we’re operating at a $6.6 million deficit.”
Ghedotte said he expects it will get worse and that he maintains a previous forecast that the city will end this year at a deficit between $12 million and $20 million. He said the severity of the deficit depends on the full economic impact of the coronavirus.
The 8am to 11pm hours of operation restriction is also in effect at all Region 7 licensed video gaming location operations.