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Marion council bets on gaming 'push' tax

  • A new "push" tax approved by the Marion City Council on Monday night could put an additional $1.5 million annually in the city's pocket.

    A new "push" tax approved by the Marion City Council on Monday night could put an additional $1.5 million annually in the city's pocket.
    Holly Kee photo

By Curtis Winston
Contributing writer
updated: 10/13/2021 1:41 PM

MARION -- Marion has joined other Illinois cities in the passage of a "push" tax, which would charge punters 1 cent for every time the button is pushed on a video-gambling machine.

With passage of the "amusement" tax ordinance in a 4-0 vote, the Marion City Council aims to have the push tax "grandfathered'" into law, in anticipation of a pending Illinois House bill that would ban it. The ordinance is based on a model sent to cities by the Illinois Municipal League. However, the push tax faces court challenges from gaming operators in the Chicago-area cities of Oak Lawn and Waukegan.

Although the 1-cent tax is on gamblers, the dilemma with the push tax is that gaming operators have not worked out a way to collect it. The operators contend that the burden of the tax falls upon them.

Other cities that have adopted the push tax include Du Quoin, Benton and Murphysboro, said Mayor's Chief-of-Staff Cody Moake.

Commissioner Jim Webb asked whether Marion would be liable for a lawsuit. Moake said the city cannot be sued as long as it doesn't enforce the tax.

To that end, Mayor Mike Absher said the city will not enforce the ordinance until the pending court actions are decided.

Moake added that video-gambling parlors in bars and truck stops are outpacing traditional casinos. "Nothing but growth," he said.

Absher said the city stands to gain an estimated $1.5 million in revenue each year from the push tax. And, there was $92 million in revenue from video-gaming machines from February to August of this year. "Let that sink in a minute," he said.

While expressing his disdain for gambling, Absher noted that most of the gambling revenue has been from truck stops, He said he took some comfort from the fact that the losses pouring into the city were from visitors, not residents. "And Love's is not yet online," he said, noting the new truck stop.

While gaming operators are fighting the proposed new tax, Absher reckoned that players wouldn't hesitate. "I don't know that a penny would make a big difference to them, but it certainly would make a big difference to us."

Collecting the tax revenue will be on the honor system, similar to the current gas and hotel taxes.

Absher explained that the businesses are required to fill out a form for the Internal Revenue Service. The information on that form is accepted at face value, unless there is an audit.

Accounts and Finance Commissioner Doug Patton supported the push tax. "I think this is a great use of funds," he said.

The council, with Absher, Patton and commissioners Jim Webb and John Stoecklin adopted the push tax in a 4-0 vote. Commissioner John M. Barwick Jr. was absent.

In other business, the council approved the following in 4-0 votes:

-- A $10,131 bid from Thompsonville-based J.M. Jones contractors for a new 12-inch water main in the Water Treatment Plant.

-- A $16,360 bid from Scott Escue Construction for a sewer extension to Stack'd at the corner of Pentecost and Illinois 13.

-- The purchase of three properties at Vicksburg and Hendrickson streets from JRJ Rentals.

-- The purchase of 1246 Midway Ct.

-- An amendment to the contract with Farmer Environmental for continual monitoring of air quality in the asbestos removal for the city hall project at First Southern Bank on Tower Square.