Illinois Governor and Chicago Mayor Said to be at Odds Over Gambling
Two of the top Democrats in the state of Illinois are said to be at odds over the issue of expanded casino gambling. Governor Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have not spoken to one another in nearly two weeks over differing opinions about a casino expansion bill known as SB1739 that is currently awaiting a vote in the Illinois House of Representatives, according to local alternative weekly the Chicago Reader.
Emanuel wants Chicago casino
At the heart of the divide between Emanuel and Quinn is a controversial plan to put a casino in downtown Chicago, something Emanuel has lobbied hard for since he has been in office.
Emanuel previously served as President Obama’s Chief of Staff before returning to his hometown and taking the mayoral job from Mayor Richard M. Daley, who held that position for a remarkable 22 years. Daley’s father, Richard J. Daley, also served as mayor of the nation’s third largest city, though his tenure was a bit shorter at only 21 years, from 1955 until 1976.
Emanuel desperately wants a casino to be built in Chicago’s downtown center, and has said on many occasions that he intends to put revenue generated by the casino toward the city’s struggling public school system. The mayor is currently facing major opposition from residents and neighbors due to his plan to close a number of schools across the city to save money as well as to improve the quality of education offered to Chicago schoolchildren.
Earlier this month a video was posted to the Mayor’s YouTube channel, detailing how the money would be spent to modernize and improve city schools.
No casinos before pension reform, Quinn says
For his part, Quinn, who has never been a proponent of expanding gambling in Illinois, has reaffirmed this week that he expects a major overhaul of the state’s underfunded public pension system to take precedence over casino expansion. SB1739, which passed the Illinois State Senate earlier this month absent a provision that also would have cleared the way for Illinoisans to place online wagers, would allow for the construction of five new land-based casinos, including the Chicago property, in addition to the installation of slot machines in Chicago’s two airports, O’Hare and Midway.
The bill has powerful proponents such as Emanuel, but it also has its share of opposition. Recently the Illinois Chamber of Commerce has begun to air radio advertisements slamming the bill, and residents in the areas where the Chicago casino has been proposed to be built have also expressed concerns about what such a project might mean for property values and future development plans.
Time running out
The next few weeks should be interesting as far as the Illinois bill is concerned. The current legislative session will end on May 31, and legislators are facing pressure from Quinn to put the matter of legalizing gay marriage ahead of the casino bill as well, with Quinn insisting that the votes are in place for gay marriage.
There are many gambling proponents, however, who point out that what Illinois needs most to solve its pension crisis, in addition to its other fiscal woes, is revenue. Those in favor of expanding casino gambling in the Land of Lincoln are quick to note that millions of dollars in potential revenue are being lost every year as Illinois residents travel to casinos in neighboring Indiana, Wisconsin, and Iowa.