Par-A-Dice's Financial Future on the Water

By Anna Yee

June 2, 2011 Updated Jun 2, 2011 at 10:34 PM CDT

About 20 years ago, East Peoria hit the jackpot when it waved in one of the city's most noticeable businesses, the Par-A-Dice Riverboat Casino.

Harold Fogelmark was one of the planners who wanted the boat docked on their side of the river.

"We knew that they were successful in other cities," said Harold Fogelmark, a former East Peoria Finance Commissioner, "so we assumed that we would be successful, but no, it exceeded our expectations."

Since the casino's arrival in the early 1990's, Par-A-Dice has dished out millions of tax dollars to the city.

Just last year, it paid about $7 million locally, plus the nearly $27 million in state taxes.

"I don't think East Peoria's ever been sorry," said Fogelmark.

But the city could start seeing some of that cash go down the drain if Governor Pat Quinn signs a gambling expansion bill.

With it, comes 5 more Illinois casinos, one of them about 2 hours away in Danville.

"I think that it's not a good move," said Cori Rutherford, the Par-A-Dice Vice President & General Manager. "Obviously, we're not in favor of another casino (downstate). We do agree with the expansion with some stipulations, but Springfield is a definitely a big market for us. It would definitely, probably hinder our business."

General Manager Cori Rutherford says Par-A-Dice draws more business from downstate cities, not so much from upstate, where four more casinos could be added.

But Fogelmark isn't too worried.

He says events like the Festival of Lights and activities at the Eastside Centre draw enough business to keep the city 'afloat'- a questionable term for the economic future of the Riverboat.

Although reports say Governor Quinn is skeptical of signing the gambling expansion bill, the Illinois Constitution does allow him to perform an amendatory veto.

Quinn could recommend specific changes to the bill, in which the General Assembly would then either approve or override.