Chicago is poised to join the list of cities with legalized gambling.
America’s third-largest city will have a downtown casino and the Windy City’s two airports will have slot machines, according to a proposal the Illinois legislators approved Wednesday. Four other sites would also have casinos, as would the state’s racetracks.
New Mayor Rahm Emanuel is credited with pushing the package through, something his predecessor was unable to do in two decades.
The proposal now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who called the measure “excessive.”
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who governed the city for 22 years before deciding not to run for a seventh term, repeatedly voiced support for a Chicago-based casino. Yet bill sponsor state Sen. Terry Link, a Democrat and longtime advocate for casino gambling, said he never got the impression that Daley truly wanted a gaming house in his hometown.
“I think Daley had mixed emotions,” Link said. “He didn’t want to be perceived as the guy who put gambling in Chicago.”
Illinois has nine riverboat casinos in suburban Chicago and elsewhere across the state.
Economic circumstances may have boosted the political prospects for expanded gambling, Link and others said, as cities struggle with the effects of declining taxes and the loss of state and federal financial aid. Chicago faces a projected 2012 budget deficit of $587 million, and the casino will create 7,000 to 10,000 jobs while helping “energize our city’s economy,” the mayor said.
Emanuel has ruled out a property-tax increase to close the city’s budget shortfall, effectively adding to the financial importance of new developments, such as a casino.
Quinn stopped short of a veto threat Wednesday. He said he would support a Chicago casino “if it’s properly done.” Quinn has amendatory veto power, meaning he can eliminate certain items in a bill while keeping others.
Quinn said he met with Emanuel shortly after he took office May 16 to talk about gambling and other issues. Asked whether he was concerned about angering Emanuel if he were to kill the Chicago casino, Quinn reminded reporters, “I’m the governor of Illinois.”
“The people of Illinois are the only ones I’m beholden to.”
Betting on it
A downtown Chicago casino and slot machines at the city’s two airports could help a budget crisis.
$587 million Projected Chicago budget deficit for 2012
$1.6 billion Estimated upfront fees generated from additions
$500 million Project annual boost for education, state-sponsored construction and more
7,000-10,000 Estimated jobs casino would create