CHICAGO, August 26, 2012 — Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is making a big bet. Emanuel wants a land-based casino in Chicago. He wants to use the revenue to fund or strengthen funding for education.
About twenty years ago, former Mayor Richard Daley made a larger wager. Daley wanted land-based casinos in major Chicago hotels in a geographic area in and surrounding downtown Chicago. Some of those hotels, like Hilton, already owned and operated profitable casinos in other cities.
Illinois Governor Jim Edgar said no to land-based casinos and that was that.
There is pending legislation to expand gambling in Illinois. That legislation might allow Chicago to get a land-based casino. There is no reason why the Springfield Demopublican Combine should refuse Chicago a casino license. Governor Pat Quinn should sign the gambling bill and allow Chicago to bid for that land-based license.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is right to want a casino in Chicago. Little is left to tax, fine, or impose fees on. Chicago needs a casino, and not just for education revenue.
A casino would be a boon for tourism, convention, and other business travel industries. If strategically placed it would support surrounding businesses.
Chicago finally needs to be brought into the 21st Century. People gamble. People want to gamble. Get over it. Gambling is mainstream activity and entertainment. The anti-gambling fringe groups are out of sync with mainstream society.
If Chicago does not get a casino some other town will. It will be Chicago’s loss.
Rahm Emanuel is making the right choice for Chicago. It is curious that most of the groups opposing gambling, especially a Chicago casino, on supposed moral, religious, or so-called family values grounds are based in the suburbs and ex-burbs. They do not live or work in Chicago. What do they care?
There are responsible people ready and able to invest, build, manage, and operate a Chicago casino. They are professional money managers, bankers, bond underwriters, and investors. Rahm Emanuel partnered with these people before he ran for mayor and afterwards to improve the business and jobs climate in Chicago.
The jury is still out whether the partnership is successful. Emanuel has been in office just over a year.
Thanks to former mayor Daley, Chicago is a major national and international tourist and business travel destination. Chicago also plays weekend host to people living in the far suburbs, ex-burbs, and adjoining states. People take advantage of cheaper weekend rates on hotel rooms to shop, dine, and entertain themselves. The state of Illinois did not do that. The Springfield Demopublican Combine did not do that.
Richard M. Daley and Chicago’s business community did that. Rahm Emanuel and his business partnerships keep doing that.
A casino would be a major tourist and business draw to the downtown area. It would provide much needed tax revenue, if run properly and efficiently. People would also spend money and pay sales taxes on hotels, shopping, dining, and entertainment in other venues.
A casino would cement Chicago as a new tourist and entertainment Mecca.
Currently people who want to gamble in the Chicago area have to go to Des Plaines, a Northwest suburb near O’Hare Airport, or to Joliet, Elgin, or Indiana, which are much farther away. It is ridiculous.
People gamble. People buy lottery tickets, bet money on sports, and put wagers on horse racing. When people travel where there are casinos, they inevitably gamble.
Chicago may as well reap its fair share.
The city has been losing out on gambling revenues for decades thanks to the dubious political machinations of the Demopublican Combine in Springfield and holy-roller moralists.
People want to gamble. Let them gamble. It is their money to spend or waste. It is not my money, your money, society’s money, God’s money, or the nanny state’s money. It is not the Demopublican Combine’s money, though they wish it were.
Is there a social cost to gambling? Of course there is. There is a social cost to everything risky or speculative, even day trading stocks. So what? When people spend their paychecks to buy lottery tickets, hoping against hope to win the Megapowersuperball government lotteries, no one complains.
Letting people play games of chance is supposedly evil, immoral, and irreligious. That is what the fringe social and family-value organizations and institutes tell us. Let them keep blowing smoke. Few pay attention to them. If they do not like gambling, they should not gamble.
If people are going to gamble, they may as well do it in a Chicago casino.
Rahm Emanuel is extremely disciplined and focused. If he says the tax revenue will go towards education, he will see to it that legislation is crafted to guarantee it.
Love him or hate him, Emanuel is known to be a man of his word.
If Chicago does not get a casino, another unknown hick town will. It will be Chicago’s loss and their gain. Rahm Emanuel’s quandary will be whether he is willing to share the power and spoils with the Springfield Demopublican Combine, their friends and families. Will he allow them to pay to play? Will he allow them to dip their beaks?
Chicago is long overdue for a casino. The only question is, who is going to run it? Chicago, the Springfield Demopublican Combine, or both?
In the best of all possible worlds the Springfield Demopublican Combine would be locked out. They have done enough damage to Illinois.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.