Posted Online: Feb. 03, 2013, 6:00 am
Nothing sinister behind Jumer's generous support
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By Roger Ruthhart
Jumer's Casino and Hotel in Rock Island came under attack by another Quad-Cities news organization recently for delays in making a voluntary donation to Rock Island County.
"We have a name for a cash payment made in exchange for not pursing tax legislation. 'Gift' is not the word,'" the media outlet opined, strongly suggesting there was something sinister involved.
If you found yourself thinking they were right, please listen to my take on the issue. (Just to be up front, I am a member of the board of the Downtown Rock Island Arts & Entertainment District and the Rock Island Grand Prix, both of which benefit from casino support. I have also served for nearly two decades on the District board with Bill Renk, casino director of public relations.)
Rewind the clock. About a year ago, the county and casino began talking after it was suggested that legislation might be introduced to require casinos to pay taxes to the county in which they are located. As we have seen the past few years, passing a casino bill and getting the governor to sign it is almost impossible. The local casino bosses suggested they might consider a contribution to help ease the budget crunch in the sheriff's department.
Why fight an uphill legislative fight at best, when someone was willing to give you money?
Thus began the process of working out the details of how contributions would be made. Delaware North, parent company of Jumer's Casino & Hotel, decided it would be through a not-for-profit foundation and began to establish one. Anyone who has been through this process with the Internal Revenue Service knows how frustrating it can be.
New county board chairman Phil Banaszek said in a published account that he wondered why the county wasn't getting a share of casino proceeds. "It's mostly the county that patrols out there and gets the calls," he was reported as saying.
Civics 101: The county doesn't get money from the state because state law doesn't provide for it. Rock Island Police Chief Jeff von Huizen said his department responded to 202 calls at the casino last year and 211 the year before. I can't imagine that leaves much for the county to worry about other than to drive by on its way to patrol elsewhere.
Civics 201: Why does the county think it is entitled to anything from the casino? Yes, it might provide some services, but it also collects property tax from the casino. It also collects from local businesses and contractors who do business with the casino. Municipal services to the casino are provided by Rock Island.
Still, I think it is nice that the casino has agreed to help out the county.
By law, the casino is required to pay the state $2 a person for every patron. One dollar goes to the city of Rock Island and the other $1 to the state. Each host city also receives a share equal to 5 percent of the adjusted gross revenues (gross receipts less winnings paid out). Illinois casinos also pay the state a graduated wagering tax based on adjusted gross revenues of the casino. Unlike Iowa, there are no not-for-profit license-holders involved.
That casino income amounts to about $6 million each year for Rock Island, saving Rock Island taxpayers millions of dollars in taxes. The casino has no say over how much, or little, it pays the city and state.
Casino managers have been generous corporate partners -- both under Jumer's management headed by Ron Wicks and more recently under current President Therrin Protze.
The list of donations that accompanies this column shows just how many organizations it has supported in the past year -- not because it was required to by law, as with the licensing foundations in Iowa, but because of its generosity and community-mindedness. Now you can add $98,000 to the sheriff's department.
In addition to these cash donations, Mr. Renk said the casino has contributed more than $100,000 in goods and services to over 600 organization fundraisers in the past year. Since Delaware North purchased it, Jumer's Casino & Hotel has increased its contributions by 120 percent, he said.
Illinois law does not require Delaware North to give a nickel to those 600-plus organizations just like it doesn't owe Rock Island County one cent. There is a reason that the Rock Island casino is the market leader and it has a lot to do with how it treats people and organizations.
I would like to join the more than 600 organizations that have benefited from the casino's support and thank them for those many "unlegislated" contributions. That includes the one to the county sheriff which will keep my taxes and those of everyone else in Rock Island County from having to pay for new squad cars.
I'm sure none of those organizations think there is anything sinister about it.
Roger Ruthhart is managing editor of The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- American Cancer Society
- American Heart Association
- Arc of Rock Island County
- Birdies for Charity
- Boys and Girls Club
- Community Caring Conference
- Development Association of Rock Island
- Family Resources
- Friendly House
- Genesis Foundation
- Gilda's Club
- Greater Quad Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
- HavLife Foundation
- John Deere Classic
- K of C Handicapped Drive
- Keep Rock Island Beautiful
- Komen Quad Cities Race for the Cure
- March of Dimes
- Memorial Christian Church
- Milan Chamber of Commerce
- QC Air Show
- QC Marathon
- Quad Cities Chamber
-Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau
- RI-Milan Education Foundation
- Rock Island - Milan School District 41 First Day Project
- Rock Island Arts and Entertainment District
- Rock Island County NAACP
- Rock Island Grand Prix
- Rock Island Music Association
- Rock Island/Milan Booster Club
- Royal Ball Run for Autism
- Special Olympics of Illinois
- Spring Chaser Sponsorship
- Tudi's Tribe Foundation
- Two Rivers YMCA
- United Neighbors
- United Way of the Quad Cities
- Western Ill. Area Agency on Aging
- Women's Connection
- Youth Services Bureau