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State To Reconsider Bringing A Casino To Chicago

By Jim Bochnowski in News on May 11, 2015 6:05PM

Three years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel jumped through a multitude of legislative hurdles to bring a casino to Chicago when then-Governor Quinn vetoed the project. Now the behind-the-scenes work starts again, as the state legislature begins its hearings on Emanuel's plan.

The Illinois Gaming Machine Operators Association and the Illinois Restaurant Association are set to speak before the Illinois General Assembly Monday in favor of bringing a casino to the city, according to WBEZ.

The casino would be an immense opportunity for the city to prevent Chicago gamblers from fleeing to Northwest Indiana, where five casinos brought in $1 billion in revenue and $307 million in taxes for the state, according to the mayor's office. The mayor's plan would require the city to actually own and operate the casino, but for the time being, all the bills introduced into the General Assembly would involve the state claiming ownership.

Last time around, Mayor Emanuel pitched the casino as a way to help out Chicago schools, claiming that "If we were to get a casino, I'd like to direct all the resources to school modernization and school improvement so our kids will be in modern school buildings with a full school day and full school year."

However, this time around he is singing a different tune, especially given the numerous problems the city has faced around funding pensions. Mayor Emanuel has been promoting the fact that the city could use the tax revenue to shore up the city's police and fire department retirement accounts.

According to State Representative Dan Burke, this is a proposal that would only be considered under dire financial circumstances, such as these.

While the last push to bring gambling into city limits met an opponent in former Governor Quinn, Governor Rauner has gone on the record as being open to the idea of bringing a casino to the city, noting that it would create jobs and generate tax revenue.

However, he also has said, "I'm not a fan of gaming, I think it causes some negatives in our communities, as well as positives."

There are certainly less fun ways for the state to bring in money.