"Macau, I believe, is the gaming capital of the world. If I'm not mistaken,
their revenues last year might have been upwards of $45 billion," Illinois
Democrat state Rep. Andre' Thapedi said Wednesday. "If those numbers are
accurate, that a small little Chinese territory can generate $45 billion in
one year, that's something we have to look at."
Illinois once again looks to a potential Chicago casino as the moneymaker
both the city and state want. On Wednesday, a panel of state lawmakers dove
back into the debate over how to get as much public money out of a Chicago
casino as they could.
"No matter what figure you look at — the highest has been $950 million, the
lowest has been $450 million — that a downtown Chicago casino would produce.
Pick a number, they're all huge numbers," Kim Goluska, a board member of the
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, told lawmakers.
Goluska said the indirect benefits of a Chicago casino — new jobs, new
tourists, new conventions — would be in the billions of dollars.
Goluksa said Chicago could be like Disneyland for casino operators.
"Chicago is an incredible prize for the gaming industry," she said.
But that prize would come with strings.
The Illinois Legislature would have to vote to allow a Chicago casino, and
the city of Chicago wants to own the casino.
Goluska tried to talk up the moneymaking possibilities of a public-private
"Probably the best place to put a casino is (in the state-owned) Thompson
Center," Goluska said.
Illinois would be the casino's landlord and the city would be the casino's
owner, but taxpayers would be the investors.
Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association that
represents Illinois' existing casinos, said the proposed state plan would
put the cost to build a new casino on the taxpayers.
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"In (this plan) the state of Illinois would borrow
nearly $1 billion to build a city of Chicago casino," Swoik said,
noting that's a huge risk. "Taxpayers would finance the construction
of a mega-Chicago casino."
Illinois already has 10 riverboat casinos and
thousands of local video slot machines spread across the state.
Swoik pointed out, too, that video gaming in local bars, veterans'
clubs and trucks stops is making the state's bigger casinos less
and less profitable.
The Illinois Gaming Board reports riverboat casino revenue is down
43 percent since 2007, and gambling receipts dropped 7 percent last
Swoik said a Chicago casino may never be the cash cow that city and
state leaders hope, but the question of future dollars is not the
highest hurdle for a Chicago casino.
To get the votes, Illinois lawmakers have been negotiating a
casino-building boom that could add casinos in Lake County, the
south suburbs, Danville and Rockford. The plan also would add slot
machines at horse racing tracks across the state.
The Chicago Crime Commission voiced its opposition to gambling
"The Crime Commission cannot support a (plan) that provides state
ownership and oversight of a casino," commission Vice President Art
Bilek told lawmakers. "The track record of corruption at the city
and state level in Illinois is a national disgrace."
Lawmakers are trying to get enough support for a Chicago casino in
time for the budget negotiations in May. Similar attempts in past
years, however, have all come up short.
article courtesy of
Contact Benjamin Yount at
Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find
him on Twitter: @BenYount.
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