Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cart ahead of the horse as casino company touts plans for suburban site

Gambling expansion, particularly construction of casinos, is an issue that we have coped with for decades while apparently going nowhere.

Will this casino conceptual drawing ever become reality? Not if our political people continue to behave as they always have! Illustration provided by Millenium Gaming.

All we have are the 10 casinos permitted by the Illinois Gaming Board that are supposed to be cruises that offer a chance to gamble a bit – even though I’m sure 99.9999999 percent of the patrons could care less about the “cruise” portion and just want to play their “games of chance” in hopes of winning money.

EARLIER THIS YEAR, Gov. Pat Quinn rejected the latest attempt by the Legislature to try to expand casino gambling in Illinois – claiming the bill added on so much; much more than he was comfortable with.

So what do I think of the fact that the owner of a major casino in Las Vegas was within Cook County’s borders on Tuesday to say he wants to build a new casino here?

I don’t! As in think much of the idea.

For the record, the company that operates the Cannery Casino Resorts in the greater Las Vegas metropolitan area says it wants to have another casino – one to operate near suburban Country Club Hills. Specifically, at the northeastern corner of Cicero Avenue and 175th Street!

WHICH IS A site I’m familiar with because my father and step-mother live in nearby Homewood, and they are the types who enjoy going to casinos. I’ve heard my step-mother, in particular, quip that a casino at that site would get her patronage nearly every day.

My point in bringing this up is to say that the idea of a casino at the site is not new. The mayor of Country Club Hills has touted the site for years as a place where his town could get rich off the taxes it would assess on casino proceeds.

So the idea that Millenium Gaming boss Bill Paulos came to visit our metropolitan area and say he wants to build a facility where he can profit from the gambling losses of our area residents isn’t a revelation.

In fact, it is just an idea that is going nowhere for the time being.

FOR THE FACT is that current Illinois law restricts “casinos” to the 10 gambling boats (that aren’t really boats any longer) already in existence.

Quinn isn’t about to change his mind any time soon, although it seems that he is willing to let Chicago have a casino and quite possibly the south suburbs as well. It was just all the other gambling (such as slots at race tracks and at the Illinois State Fairgrounds) that bothered him.

But for people who didn’t live in the Chicago-area, it was all those other gambling opportunities that mattered to them. They could care less about whether or not Mayor Rahm Emanuel ever gets that lakefront casino he dreams about (focusing his dreams on all the dollars that HE could derive from the taxes Chicago would assess on casino proceeds).

This move by Paulos and Country Club Hills is purely about one-upping the opposition for the day when the gambling expansion concept does move forward. Which could be the real significance of a veto-proof majority in the Illinois General Assembly – it cuts Quinn out of the political equation.

BECAUSE OFFICIALS USUALLY talk about one casino in southern Cook County – yet there are several municipalities that are determined to believe they are the front-runners for the project that would seek to take money from the existing casinos in Indiana municipalities such as Hammond, East Chicago and Gary.

This is one suburban official telling his other suburban counterparts to take their casino dreams and stuff them. It’s nothing more.

So instead of watching the open field that separates Country Club Hills from Tinley Park to see if construction starts anytime soon, we ought to be watching our political people to see if they can put aside their political differences on this issue anytime soon. If they can’t, then we maintain the status quo that has been in place for decades.

If I were a betting man (personally, I find casinos to be tacky), I’d say that the status quo is about all our government officials are capable of achieving.


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