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Profits from Chicago's first casino lower than expected, jeopardizing future pension funding

Profits on Chicago's first casino lower than expect, possibly jeopardizing pension money
Profits on Chicago's first casino lower than expect, possibly jeopardizing pension money 02:25

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The dice may be hot, but profits are not at Chicago's first casino.

The money fell well short of expectations in Bally's first three months at their temporary site at the Medinah Temple in River North.

CBS 2 Political Reporter Chris Tye digs into the numbers and what it means for the pensions the dollars are supposed to be funding. 

When it opened three months ago, there was pomp. Today, the circumstances around Chicago's first casino aren't great, financially.

"It's too early to make any early significant projections, but the start is not as promising as I'm sure the city would have hoped," said David Greising of the Better Government Association. 

Illinois Gaming Board records show the casino generated $30 million in profit in its first three months. The city gets $3.1 million of that.

It's far short of the $12.8 million the city had forecasted for itself. That's a $9.7 million shortfall in dollars earmarked to pay Chicago's police and fire pensions. 

"It takes time. It takes time to get legs. It takes time to figure out how this works," said John Bosca, who was on Mayor Lori Lightfoot's Casino Advisory Council.

"When those projections came out, that also included that they would also open much earlier than what they did. So that would be the summer...which they didn't get in," Bosca said.

"I'm actually not surprised. I think the numbers were a bit overly optimistic to start," said Deborah Carroll of the University of Illinois at Chicago's Government Finance Research Center. 

The bullish forecasting out of the casino's temporary site at River North's Medinah Temple came as a surprise to both of the independent experts CBS 2 spoke with Wednesday.

"The city's budgeting for the casino has always been overly, wildly optimistic," said Greising. "Lori Lightfoot's $200 million per year. I don't know where that came from."

What Greising does know: If the casino numbers continue to underperform, it could jeopardize Mayor Brandon Johnson's promise to fund pensions beyond what is legally required.

"If indeed this gambling money falls far short, he's got to find that additional revenue or walk away from that commitment," Greising said.

Carroll added, "There is a possibility that the temporary casino might ultimately become the permanent casino, but it's a little bit too early to tell at this point."

Bally's casino declined a CBS 2 request for an interview but did point out that in the last quarter of last year, Bally's built sales in each month, peaking in December, and underscored it will begin construction on the new $2 billion facility in River West later this year. 

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