Oak Lawn wins push tax fight
Village could see $1 million from video gaming levy
By Dermot Connolly
The Illinois Legislature handed Oak Lawn a preliminary victory in its battle against the video gaming industry with its Oct. 28 passage of a video gaming bill that allows the village to impose a “push tax” that could be worth an estimated $1 million in annual revenue.
This week, village officials were looking forward to Gov. JB Pritzker signing the new legislation, House Bill 3136, Senate Amendment 4, into law.
“He has 60 days to sign it, so we have to give him time. But whenever he is ready, we will send him however many pens he needs. We want to move forward,” Trustee Paul Mallo (3rd) said on Tuesday. Mallo was instrumental in getting the push tax in place.
The amendment on a student debt relief bill stipulates that only Oak Lawn and other home-rule municipalities such as Waukegan that had adopted the push-tax before Nov. 1, 2021, will be allowed to impose it. State Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) and state Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th) were among the chief sponsors.
In May 2019, Mallo and former Trustee Tom Phelan (6th)—the village manager since July—completed a comprehensive analysis of video gaming revenues after the state Legislature changed the video gaming statutes. The three most significant changes were: increasing the maximum allowable video gaming machines per business from five to six; increasing the maximum bet from $2 to $4; and reconfiguring the revenue-sharing arrangement between business owners, machine owners, the state and municipalities. It was this change that spurred Mallo and Phelan into action.
“It was outrageous that the video gaming industry left the municipalities in the cold when they re-cut the revenue-sharing pie,” Mallo said of the changes that kept the municipal share at 5 percent and raised the state share from 25 percent to 29 percent.
“We are talking billions of dollars in revenues, and the municipalities are the ones burdened with the responsibilities of providing police and emergency services, and keeping the streets clear to enable businesses to operate in a safe and inviting community,” he said.
Mallo and Phelan looked at various options to increase Oak Lawn’s gaming revenue before eventually deciding to assess a 1-cent “push-tax” each time a player bet. They estimated this tax would generate an additional $1 million each year for the village.
“We consulted with many Oak Lawn bettors and our research showed that they averaged between 100 and 200 bets each time they played, so we didn’t feel a $1 or $2 tax was unfair, and neither did they,” Mallo said.
At an Oak Lawn Village Board meeting in February 2020, then-Mayor Sandra Bury pointed to Illinois Gaming Board’s figures that showed $16,501,382 was wagered in Oak Lawn gaming terminals that January—more than the village’s entire tax levy of $14.2 million for 2019.
The ordinance imposing the push tax went into effect in January 2020, but almost immediately, representatives of the gaming industry filed suit against the village. In March, the Illinois Gaming Machine Operators Association filed an injunction against the village to stop the tax from being imposed. The industry association maintained that it violates the Video Gaming Act and would be costly and technologically complicated to implement. This move encouraged most of the 41 local business owners with gaming machines to refuse to pay the tax. They claimed, among other things, that their machines were incapable of calculating the tax.
Their argument was weakened after one Oak Lawn business—Jedi’s Garden—opted to pay the tax, proving that it was possible. Also, Waukegan instituted a similar tax and a Lake County court dismissed a suit filed by the gaming industry against that municipality.
“It’s unfortunate that more municipalities didn’t join our fight, because we believe the case would have been settled sooner and saved us significant legal fees,” Phelan said.
He added that Oak Lawn made extensive efforts to encourage other towns to join the fight, including enlisting the help of the Illinois Municipal League, but most municipalities were content to let Oak Lawn and Waukegan “go it alone” in the lawsuit.
Mallo said he expected the lawsuit against Oak Lawn would be dismissed as soon as the new bill was signed into law. He noted that a hearing was scheduled for Wednesday on the village’s fines against businesses that have not collected the tax, but “we don’t expect to collect fines now.”
“We picked up momentum when Waukegan joined the fight,” said Phelan, noting that along with Mallo, Waukegan Ald. Greg Mosio can take the most credit for this victory if Pritzker signs the bill.
“We were fortunate that the Oak Lawn board unanimously approved the push-tax, which wasn’t the case in Waukegan where their board was divided on the issue. But Greg Mosio led the fight there and got it passed, greatly helping the cause, and Waukegan’s residents.”
Pushback over ‘conscience’ law change
Measure would close vax loophole By Peter Hancock Capitol News Illinois and Tim Hadac A number of Southwest Siders are pushing back against a new state law designed to clear the way for employers to enforce vaccination, testing and other mitigation measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The measure, Senate Bill 1169, amends the Illinois…
Back in their dancing shoes
After the pandemic forced them off the stage for more than 20 months, the boys and girls of Ballet Folklórico Estrella del Mar donned their costumes and dancing shoes last week and performed for Big Shoulders Fund representatives visiting St. Mary Star of the Sea School in West Lawn. Founded in 2015 at the…
Warn of business heists in Wrightwood, Chicago Lawn
From staff reports A cluster of early-morning burglaries of businesses in Wrightwood and Chicago Lawn has prompted police to issue a warning. Crime scene include: 7800 block of South Oakley on Oct. 19. 3000 block of West 63rd Street on Oct. 21. 8200 block of South Kedzie on Nov. 7. 7800 block of South Kedzie…
Girls Basketball: Shepard, Knights among four area teams to open season at Bobby Bolton Classic
By Jeff Vorva Correspondent Four area teams competed in the eight-team Bobby Bolton Classic at Richards, and each showed some bright spots and had some sloppy moments. That was to be expected. Richards, Oak Lawn, Chicago Christian and Shepard were all opening the season with young teams. According to their rosters, 15 of 54 players…
Wharton fifth-graders take first place in math competition
By Carol McGowan A class at District 104’s Wharton 5th Grade Center in Summit recently celebrated a big win. Ms. Xheraj’s class took first place in the Region 7 Math Online Sumdog Competition. Sumdog’s free online math contests tout being a fun way to motivate students as they compete against other classes and schools, either…
Pro soccer report: Red Stars lose Dames after losing in NWSL title game
By Jeff Vorva Correspondent After a bizarre season that saw many of their best players injured for much of the time, a 5-0 loss to open the season and the thrill of making it to the NWSL championship game, Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames announced late Sunday night he was resigning. “For 11 years,…
St. Rita tops Prospect, advances to second straight state title game
By Steve Millar Correspondent After entering the season with huge expectations, St. Rita lost two of its first three games and star senior running back/receiver Kaleb Brown to injury. While some may have written the Mustangs off, they still believed they had a team that could win a state championship. “We’ve been able to stick…
Crusaders playoff run ends with semifinal loss to Wheaton North
By Jeff Vorva Correspondent At age 47, Brian Badke has a lot of good coaching years left in him. But for now, he is stepping away and putting the whistle in storage. He has a lot of good spectating years ahead of him that he wants to take care of, first. The Brother Rice football…
Give thanks to your local paper
By Thomas L. Knapp Around Thanksgiving, I usually take a little time to think about who and what I’m thankful for. That seems to be the point, after all. This year, for various reasons, my thoughts and appreciation turn toward journalists, newspapers and other news media. Sometimes the people and institutions we rely on to…
CAPITOL RECAP: Pritzker signs new congressional maps into law
By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday, Nov. 23, signed legislation redrawing the state’s congressional district maps, saying they reflect Illinois’ diversity and preserve minority representation. Due to the state’s declining population, Illinois will have only 17 congressional seats after the 2022 elections, one fewer than it currently has. Because most…
New congressional maps signed into law
By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday signed legislation redrawing the state’s congressional district maps, saying they reflect Illinois’ diversity and preserve minority representation. “These maps align with the landmark Voting Rights Act and will ensure all communities are equitably represented in our congressional delegation,” Pritzker said in…
1 million EVs: Inside the state’s plan for electrifying the transportation sector
By JERRY NOWICKI Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – With a pair of major policy victories in hand, Gov. JB Pritzker traveled to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, at the beginning of the month and shared a vision for his home state: “Illinois intends to become the best place in North…
Capitol Cast: A discussion on redistricting controversies
The Better Government Association’s Bryan Zarou and University of Illinois political science professor Brian Gaines talk with Peter Hancock about the redistricting process in Illinois and the upcoming oral arguments in three federal lawsuits challenging the new legislative maps. See congressional maps here:www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer…3130960460293&z=6 See IL House maps here:www.google.com/maps/d/u/1/viewer…8881118842843&z=5 See IL Senate maps here:www.google.com/maps/d/u/2/viewer…4259714843751&z=6 Capitol News…
State Supreme Court rules on pair of gun cases
By JERRY NOWICKI Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – In its latest round of opinions Thursday, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a Village of Deerfield assault weapons ban and restored a Putnam County man’s right to a Firearm Owners Identification card over the objections of the Illinois State Police. The decision in the Deerfield case…
Illinois unemployment falls to 6%
By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point in October to 6 percent as employers added 40,900 jobs during the month, the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday. According to the preliminary data, the industry sectors…
CAPITOL RECAP: Pritzker signs electric vehicle manufacturing incentives into law
By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law a tax incentives package Tuesday, Nov. 16, that state lawmakers hope will help Illinois become a manufacturing hub for the budding electric vehicle industry. The Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois, or REV, Act, passed the General Assembly with near-unanimous bipartisan support during the…
New state law bans ‘dark money’ in judicial races
By PETER HANCOCK Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – A new law in Illinois aims to ban out-of-state contributions and so-called “dark money” in judicial campaigns by requiring all candidates to disclose the sources of their contributions. Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday signed Senate Bill 536 into law, an omnibus elections bill that makes a…
Pritzker signs electric vehicle manufacturing incentives into law
By JERRY NOWICKI Capitol News Illinois [email protected] SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law a tax incentives package Tuesday that state lawmakers hope will help Illinois become a manufacturing hub for the budding electric vehicle industry. The Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois, or REV, Act, passed the General Assembly with near-unanimous bipartisan support during…
Capitol Cast: Climate, Supreme Court and Redistricting
Listen to the latest episode of Capitol Cast. Peter Hancock and Jerry Nowicki discuss Gov. JB Pritzker’s trip to the U.N. climate conference, an Illinois Supreme Court case concerning ride hailing services, and the latest developments in the legislative redistricting court cases. Capitol News Illinois · Climate, Supreme Court and Redistricting