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Chicago's Casino At Thompson Center? Quinn Expresses Doubt

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An influential local business leader on Tuesday said he believes the James R. Thompson Center-- in the middle of downtown Chicago-- would be a great spot for a new casino, if the gambling expansion legislation is ever approved.

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper said the Thompson Center would be the perfect spot for the proposed Chicago casino, even if it means relocating the state government employees who work in the building, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Roper told the Sun-Times the casino could occupy the first floor and lower level, with hotel rooms surrounding it on the higher floors.

But Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who has consistently opposed the gambling expansion bill that has still yet to be delivered to his desk, admitted to the Sun-Times "we have a lot of things to do before we get to that point."

Among those things is getting Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the other stakeholders to reach some kind of an agreement over the stalled legislation. Quinn this week added to his existing concerns with the legislation -- over its regulation and risk of increasing organized crime, specifically -- and told the Chicago Tribune that the casinos' proposed tax rates are too low and likely wouldn't leave enough funding for education.

"We've got to make sure that the law is right, that there is integrity at all times, that the state of Illinois gets its fair share of any gaming revenue," Quinn told the Tribune of the massive bill, which would open five new casinos and introduce nearly 40,000 new gaming positions statewide.

"I am particularly concerned about our School Assistance Fund," Quinn continued. "Some provisions were put in to the bill that were not good for that fund and are going to shortchange children, and that has to be straightened out."

Others concerns with lost income as a result of casino expansion are some of the state's existing casinos. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported this week, business at Elgin's Grand Victoria Casino decreased after the state's newest casino, Rivers Casino, opened in Des Plaines this summer. Eight other Illinois casinos also reported decreased income compared to the previous year -- with only Rock Island's casino registering an increase.

Elgin officials passed a resolution opposing the new gambling expansion and stated that "Illinois cities and regions with riverboat casinos should not be subject to cannibalization of their markets by race tracks that have been long afforded the privilege of wagering by the state," the Sun-Times reports.

Meanwhile, Emanuel has continued to push for the city's first-ever casino and the revenue and jobs he expects will accompany it, despite Quinn's reservations. At last week's City Council meeting, aldermen lined up in support of Emanuel's call for the casino.

"This legislation will put people to work in building a casino," Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), chairman of the council's Black Caucus, said of his support of the bill, as reported by the Tribune.

Photo by Zol87 via Flickr.

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