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Renewed Push for More Casinos

Renewed Push for More Casinos

Photo: Associated Press

A new gambling proposal may pit cities against counties.

A bill introduced by State Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) (pictured) offers two options: a state-owned casino in Chicago, or building five casinos in Chicago, its south suburbs, and Lake, Winnebago, and Vermillion counties. Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey wants that narrowed down to cities within those counties like his.

“That opens up a whole new can of worms that frankly, politically, I think would make it more difficult, not easier, to get the legislation through,” Morrissey said.

But Illinois Gaming Board attorney Caleb Melamed says from the board’s perspective, too much local control over a casino site isn’t the best option.

“They’re all county-wide and we supported that before. We think that’s better, because that’s competitively bid,” Melamed said.

The bill would also allow gambling at certain Illinois race tracks, though not at Fairmount Park in Collinsville. Horsemen would also be guaranteed a share of casino revenues.

The proposal for five casinos is alongside a separate proposal — for one casino, in Chicago. Business groups say it would boost business and tourism, but others are worried about the potential for corruption.

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and others say a downtown casino would complement tourist attractions and shopping.

The Chicago Crime Commission wants protections against corruption.

A Chicago location hasn’t been decided, but urban planners say possibilities are the Congress Hotel, the top floors of a Macy’s and the James R. Thompson Center, a state building.

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