Could it be that political people in Illinois are so determined to avoid the impression of corruption that it caused them to pick what was arguably the weakest of all the proposed sites for a new riverboat casino?
That was the thought that popped into my mind when I learned Monday that Des Plaines will be the site of the state’s 10th (and final) gambling boat complex.
THE ILLINOIS GAMING Board chose the municipality in northwest Cook County over nearby Rosemont and Waukegan, which in Lake County would have allowed for gambling on Lake Michigan proper.
That same board had previously struck down the desires of four south and southwest Cook County towns that wished to bolster their struggling economic pictures by taking in significant tax dollars from the casinos.
So state officials will allow Midwest Gaming LLC to go ahead and build a complex where people can gamble without having to leave the Chicago area, although there will be some Chicago-area residents who will think of Indian casinos in Wisconsin or Indiana-based riverboat casinos as more accessible to them.
Putting the final casino license to use in either Waukegan or Calumet City could have allowed Illinois to try to regain some of those gamblers.
NOW THERE ARE those people who have always argued that Rosemont, with its location adjacent to O’Hare International Airport, will forevermore remain the best site for a casino. One could literally run shuttles from the airport to the proposed casino site, thereby allowing people waiting for a connecting flight to enrich Illinois’ coffers with their gambling losses.
Also, all those northwest suburban hotels right around the airport would provide a base of people who might want to pass their time away in a casino environment.
But when the Illinois Gaming Board previously tried to award a casino license to a site in Rosemont, so much of a stink wafted up from the land of Roses and we got to hear all kinds of allegations that former mayor Don Stephens (now deceased) had ties to people involved in organized crime.
And the accounts I have been reading have noted that Waukegan Gaming, which would have operated a lakefront casino complex in its namesake city, had as one of its partners Bill Cellini.
HE’S THE ONE-time state government official back in the 1970s who went on to become a wealthy developer who has used his extensive ties to elected officials to exert significant influence within state government.
But the Springfield resident also currently is facing a criminal indictment of his own in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Even though he has sold his interest in any casino proposal for Waukegan to a Hinsdale contractor, there was still the impression that the Waukegan proposal would be a gambling boat with people of an unsavory nature involved.
Perhaps up until a few weeks ago, the gaming board would have been willing to look the other way.
Yet with the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, combined with public attention to former Gov. George Ryan’s desire for a commutation of his prison sentence to time served, could be having the effect of making people super-sensitive to even the appearance of corruption.
SO, WE GET the future possibility of legal gambling in Des Plaines, a town of which I personally know only one thing – it is the site of the first McDonald’s hamburger franchise that Ray Kroc had anything to do with (the McDonald brothers ran their stands out in California, before selling out their name to milkshake machine salesman Kroc).
Now, it will have a casino that will threaten to take a little bit of business away from the Grand Victoria casino in Elgin – which is where area residents have had to go if they wanted to find a casino nearby.
As I understand, the site of a Des Plaines casino isn’t that far from the Rosemont proposal. So perhaps someone will still operate buses of some type between the town and all those hotels surrounding O’Hare airport. One might still be able to empty out all those out-of-town wallets before they fly away to destinations unknown.
But if the intention was truly to put O’Hare access above the concept of giving a boost to an economically impoverished town, then gaming board officials should have stuck to their prior decision and given the license to a Rosemont proposal.
AND IF THE idea is to give an economic jolt to a town in need, then Waukegan or any of those south suburban towns previously passed over would have been superior.
While gaming board officials said they were more concerned with future income than the amount of money the casino developers were willing to give the state up front, the fact remains that the Des Plaines proposal was far from the best.
Rosemont, Waukegan and Harvey all were willing to provide the state with more money up from than Des Plaines (even after the suburb boosted its offer from $100 million to $122.5 million).
All I know is that the casino and four restaurants, along with future development of a large-scale nightclub, had better be incredibly luxurious for its patrons. Or else the impression will always remain that Illinois’ decade-long political fight to find a replacement for the now-defunct casino in East Dubuque, Ill., ended with a second-rate proposal.
EDITOR’S NOTES: An Illinois town whose pronunciation confuses people almost as much as Cairo, Vienna or Bourbonnais (http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2008/12/des-plaines-gets-last-casino-license.html) will get to join the ranks of nine other municipalities (http://www.chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?id=32363) that have legal gambling casinos.
People living south of Chicago previously had the dreams dashed of having a gambling boat complex (http://chicagoargus.blogspot.com/2008/11/gambling-boat-talk-headed-northbound.html) built near their homes.
The “City of Destiny” (http://www.desplaines.org/) is now a city of gambling.