Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Separate Chicago for gambling? Legislators don’t trust enough to do it

I’m sure there are some people who heard what Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe said about a Chicago-based casino and think he makes total sense.

QUINN: Soon to be in his hands

That is, to put the concept of creating a new Chicago casino in one bill, and have completely separate legislation for the General Assembly to approve with regards to expanded gambling opportunities in the rest of the state.

IT WOULD OVERCOME, in a sense, the idea that there is too much crammed into one bill. What with five new casinos, along with more slot machine opportunities and gambling benefits for the racetracks – which can’t seem to survive financially just by offering horseracing.

The so-called Sport of Kings is nothing more than a racket for guys who don’t want to work for a living. Think of the late actor John Candy’s “Uncle Buck” character – without the adorable kids at his side.

It’s bad enough that even they want a piece of the casino action.

Which adds to the interests that want a share! Which makes the bill bigger and bigger and bigger.

SO WHEN JAFFE told the Associated Press this week that he’d like to see all this activity split up into separate bills, I’m sure he was well-meaning. He may even have been sincere.

Although I’d like to think he’s been around the Chicago political scene to know there’s no way this issue will ever be split up. Perhaps this is his way of trying to drive a political stake through its heart.

For Jaffe has made it known before that he’s not too enthused about all the expanded gambling talk. His board already oversees the 10 casinos located in outer suburbs and rural towns across Illinois. He thinks they have enough to do already.
Horseplayers wish they were this cute

Although the people who want a Chicago casino don’t want to add to his workload. They’re the ones who want any city-based casino to be put into a different category – one that would be regulated by the city itself.

WHETHER YOU TRUST that depends on whether you believe that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his successors would be inclined to appoint a serious regulatory authority of their own to ensure no funky stuff takes place at a Chicago casino.

Or perhaps you’re more the cynical type who views this as an attempt to get pesky regulators away from a Chicago casino – thereby allowing it to operate in a “business-friendly” manner.

In circumstances like this, I’m inclined to think of “business-friendly” as synonymous with no regulation whatsoever. So count me amongst the critics!

Which puts me in the same category as Pat Quinn, since the governor has used this “too much on one bill” logic to justify his two vetoes of the issue. Without any significant change in approach, he’s likely to issue Veto Number Three. But it won’t happen – because the reason things get lumped together in Springfield is because nobody trusts anybody else to vote to support something, unless it’s all part of a package. Everybody would fear the double-cross if there were separate bills.

QUINN ALSO HAS said he considers other issues before the General Assembly to be just a tad bit more important this year – meaning he’s threatening to reject more gambling outright if those issues (pension funding reform?) are not addressed.

Personally, I’m inclined to think this is a non-issue for now. There is just too much in the way of other business that needs to be taken care of. Ignoring all that stuff (concealed carry, gay marriage, to name a couple) while obsessing over the idea of a lakefront casino would just make the Legislature look too out-of-touch.
EMANUEL: He really, really wants that casino

Although if the casino were to be considered for the area south of the Loop, perhaps near the McCormick Place convention center, then the whole idea of building a 10,000-seat arena to draw more sports events to Chicago almost starts to make sense.

It makes me wonder what the people at DePaul University will think, if their men’s basketball program winds up becoming nothing more than bait to lure even more people to the area, and it’s casino, to lose their money!


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