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Black, Hispanic Aldermen Join Forces On Chicago Casino

By Prescott Carlson in News on Sep 1, 2011 7:40PM

Photo by markybon
The members of the Chicago City Council's Black and Hispanic Caucuses are pushing for a Chicago casino and slot machines at the city's airports, despite the effect easy access to gambling may have on the communities they represent.

A gambling bill that in part would allow for a casino within Chicago city limits has been in political limbo since the beginning of June, and now some aldermen are saying it's time for Gov. Quinn to move to getting it signed and into law. When the bill was first passed, Quinn criticized the bill, calling it "excessive," and implied that he may use his veto powers to kill certain parts of it.

According to Fran Spielman at the Sun-Times, Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the City Council Black Caucus, is now warning Quinn about taking that action, saying, "There's always a political consequence to anything you do or you don't do. Those people who are out of work will look unfavorably on that."

Brookins said that the neighborhoods the Caucus represents are in dire need of a slice of the projected $140 million casino pie, and that they "really need a shot in the arm."

Ald. Danny Solis (25th), chairman of the City Council Hispanic Caucus, echoed Brookins, saying:

"We represent Hispanic and African-American constituencies that are the big majority of this city. And [Quinn] should hear us, too. There are also the constituencies that... have the worst neighborhoods and, as far as infrastructure is concerned, the biggest need. And speaking for Hispanics, this is the constituency that really does need to look at the problem of our crumbling schools and more schools being built."

What neither Brookins or Solis mentioned, however, is these constituencies are also the most affected by the harms of addictive gambling. Households with low incomes already spend a significant part of their income on the lottery, and putting a casino within an easy train ride's distance of low-income gamblers is not likely to help matters.

As the city has demonstrated with its management of TIF funds, cash windfalls are more likely to wind up in the hands of corporations rather than being directed to the neighborhoods that need it the most. There's also the matter of the over $600 million city budget hole that has to be filled, not to mention that casino revenue can be fleeting.

So while we applaud the Caucuses' ostensible fight for their communities, perhaps the efforts are misguided.