Meet John Doe: 70/30 casino revenue split is fair

May 22, 2013

By Paul Gorski

I agree with only a few of Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey’s (I) proposals, but even fewer from County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R). In this case, Morrissey’s proposed 70/30 casino tax revenue split, 70 percent to the city and 30 percent to the larger area, is a fair proposal.

I’ve never been a fan of bringing a casino to the region, largely because casinos are not the economic engines people think they are. If casino gambling was the solution to financial woes, Nevada would be brimming with money, but it is not. It will not help us that every road leading to Rockford already has a casino on it, drawing off potential customers.

But I’m not writing to argue for or against a casino here, rather that giving a lion’s share of the tax revenue to the city hosting the casino is fair because the city will have the largest bills associated with the casino. Personally, I think it is generous for the city to even offer 30 percent.

Locating the casino in the city will require increased police, fire and social service staffing, in addition to additional road, street cleaning, maintenance and infrastructure costs. The city will need every penny of the casino tax revenue to pay these additional costs, and will likely have little to show for this additional revenue after it’s done. The major benefits being the job creation and tourist traffic brought to the region.

County Board member Dave Fiduccia (R-11), whom I lost to last fall in a county board race (congrats, Dave) was quoted as saying: “We have a failure to communicate here. We need to broker a meeting between the chairman and the city and invite county board members to debate this behind closed doors in an adult, responsible manner.”

That’s a nice sentiment, but could be illegal. I don’t believe county board members discussing the county’s greed behind closed doors meets the requirement for a closed meeting under the Open Meetings Act. They would be discussing a contractual agreement, though, but one with so far-reaching implications to county residents that the meeting should be open, even televised. If nothing else, have public hearings with public testimony on the issue.

See, the casino is already causing problems. We have politicians fighting over money, proposing secret meetings, and who knows what else? This is just what made the newspaper. 70/30 is fair, but could always be renegotiated. The tax revenues will be a matter of public record and should be reviewed on an annual basis to determine how equitable the arrangement is for all parties involved.

I’ve said it before, but it deserves repeating: call and/or write your local politicians with your thoughts and opinions. Post comments online with this story or write your own commentary. Thank you.

Paul Gorski (http://www.paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.

From the May 22-28, 2013, issue

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