Chicago casino: Opportunity or burden?

June 1, 2011 10:00:00 PM PDT
Does the broke City of Chicago hit the jackpot with a casino?

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce says absolutely - the chamber predicts $650 million in gaming revenue a year, with 2,500 permanent casino jobs and $130 million in indirect benefits such as parking, hotels and restaurants.

"So restaurants in the nearby vicinity might have to put on an extra shift and stay open later, which could result in more hiring, more sales, more food volume etc.," said Dr. Chris Roberts, director of the DePaul University School of Hospitality.

Roberts says putting a casino in Chicago would make the city a more attractive destination for tourists and conventions.

"So those outside opportunities including casino gambling, night life, etc., always play a factor in groups deciding where to have their meetings," said Roberts.

However, others predict that most of the gamblers will be local, and that is what scares Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.

"Let's face it - it's not gonna be your multi-millionaires running down to the local casino and betting it all on lucky number 7, it's gonna be low and moderate income families," said Martire.

Martire says short term the city will generate needed revenue from a casino, but long term, Martire says it is bad economic policy.

"From a revenue generation standpoint, it's a very inefficient way to tax people - folks gotta lose 6 or 7 bucks for every dollar that we get in tax revenue pretty much from a casino," said Martire.

Martire says money spent at a casino may take away from cash spent at the neighborhood grocery store or car repair.

Roberts says that is an individual choice.

"When I go downstairs and buy my lunch I've gotta pay the sales tax to the City of Chicago whether I want to or not - I don't have to walk into a casino," said Roberts.

Roberts says the real key to the economic impact of a casino is who owns it.

He says local ownership is vital for keeping all the dollars in the city.

Those for and against casinos are in the process of writing letters and trying to set up meetings with Governor Pat Quinn. Quinn says he will listen to the people before deciding what he will do.

He has 60 days to sign to new gaming bill. On Wednesday, he said he feels it is excessive in its current form.

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