Tourists could soon have a new reason to visit Chicago: a brand new casino with all the glorious gambling options, entertainment venues, and culinary offerings of the Las Vegas Strip. Cash-strapped Illinois is looking for a solution to its $9 billion mountain of debt and floundering school system; the construction of a gambling facility just might be the answer, according to the city's mayor, Mr. Rahm Emanuel. A bill to add five new casinos to the state, including the addition of Chicago's first official casino, passed the Illinois Senateon May 1, 2013. Now it's up to the House to decide if the proposal will go through.
To date, the city of Chicago does not have any casinos. That will soon change if Mayor Emanuel and Democratic Senator Terry Link, a sponsor of the bill, get their way. If approved by the Illinois House, the bill would also provide for slot machine installments in two of the area's largest airports, O'Hare and Midway. Chicago would then be the only other U.S. city besides Las Vegas to have slot machines in its airports.
Illinois Casinos are Nothing New
The state of Illinois already has several casinos where people can partake of various slot machines and table games. Gamblers may visit the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Harrah's in Joliet, and the Hollywood in Aurora. Tourists can float and gamble aboard the riverboat Capri Casino in Bettendorf or spend a luxurious night at the Par-a-Dice hotel gambling resort in East Peoria. According to Chicago Tourist Bureau CEO Jack Johnson, a new gambling facility would give travelers one more terrific reason to visit the area, drawing some much-needed revenue into the state.
Historically, the idea for a new casino in Chicago has been a pipe dream churning in the minds of politicians for years. Year after year, however, the proposal has been shot down by opponents who pose strong ethical questions about the location of such a business. The year of 2013 looks to be different, given the struggling U.S. economy and the dire straits of the debt-oppressed Illinois state budget. Even Governor Pat Quinn, who has traditionally opposed the idea of adding any more gambling houses to the area, has acquiesced that a new casino might be one of the best ways to invest in the future of Illinois.
Five New Casinos
Chicago wouldn't be the only recipient of a new casino. The proposed bill aims to place facilities in Rockford, Danville, and Lake County as well. The exact locations for the businesses have yet to be determined, but different towns are already vying for the opportunity to welcome a new casino into their area.
Mayor Emanuel has announced that he believes so strongly in this revenue-driving cause, he promises to put 100 percent of the proposed new Chicago casino's revenue into the Illinois school system. Emanuel's pledge is nothing new; across the United States, politicians are pouring gambling revenue into public school systems like never before.
Gaming Board and City Board Must Work Together
The fact that a new windy city casino would be overseen not only by the Illinois Gaming Board, but also by a city board, has caused a bit of nail biting amongst politicians. Illinois Gaming Board leader Aaron Jaffe actually got into an argument with lawmakers during a hearing for the bill recently. Jaffe questioned why there would need to be a city board governing a casino in addition to the state board. One of his major concerns is that the involvement of a Chicago city board with the running of a casino could lead to corruption. Democratic Senator Terry Link, who co-sponsored the bill, played down the corruption concern, referring to the city board as merely a routine “business manager.” Link said it's not unusual for Chicago to have city board managers overseeing other large projects as well, like the town's Metropolitan Pier.
The Location of a New Chicago Casino
Even though it hasn't been approved yet, developers are already speculating as to where they might like to build a new casino in Chicago. Some possible locations include the Trump tower and the old Congress Hotel on Michigan Avenue. Conservative leaders fear that the addition of a casino to a neighborhood would harm its surrounding businesses by robbing gambling clients of their disposable income. Supporters of the bill feel that the addition of a casino would be nothing but an economic boon to any area of the town.
Other Cities Hopeful
The exact location of the five proposed casinos, should the bill get adopted, is yet to be determined. At least one facility would be in Chicago while three or four others would find homes in different cities. Due to the immense revenue a new casino would provide, various city governments are clamoring for the opportunity to claim ownership of one of the proposed businesses. Because these cities are so money-hungry right now, they have gone ahead and hired developers for construction projects that have not been approved by law yet. In Waukegan, newly-elected mayor Wayne Motley ran his campaign on the platform that a new casino would drive great revenue into his city. Advocates for a new Waukegan casino would like to see it built at a spot called Fountain Square, a former mall and hotel site.
For several years, politicians in Illinois have been trying to add more casinos to the state. Conservatives have opposed the idea, citing social and ethical reasons against the additional gambling facilities. As Illinois' deficit climbs higher and higher into the billions of dollars, the chance of more casinos opening up becomes more likely. It is now up to the Illinois House to decide the fate of five potential new casinos in the state of Illinois.