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US – Chicago tourism officials present case for a downtown casino

By - 13 May 2015

Tourism executives in Chicago have aired their support for a Chicago casino to address a $6bn deficit gap in Illinois.

Officials from the dining, hotel and tourism sectors addressed a panel of legislators at a hearing, stating that a casino in Chicago’s downtown area would create thousands of jobs, create more business opportunities for local restaurants and provide a new influx of cash for the state.

Mark Gordon, President and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, said: “Millions of dollars in revenue and taxes are lost every year because neighbouring states benefit from our tourists, conventioneers and residents who frequent their casinos. We need a Chicago casino so our guests will stay here, to gamble, to eat in our restaurants and to shop in our stores.”

Sam Toia, President and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, added: “A world-class casino in Chicago would be an additional draw for tourists and conventioneers to visit and stay in Chicago, which will help with more heads in beds in hotels and butts in seats in restaurants, which will generate millions in sales tax revenue for the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois.”

The push for a Chicago casino, favoured by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is being considered alongside a proposal to allow for five new Illinois casinos, in Chicago, the south suburbs and in Lake Winnebago and Vermilion counties. This bill would also increase gambling at Illinois race tracks.
The casino bills have been pushed to the forefront due to $111bn pension crisis.

Both bills are sponsored by State Republican Bob Rita, who said: “Revenue is more of a need today than it was last week. Here’s an area that we could generate revenue. It’s just a matter of how do we get there? What model do we use that will pass both the House and Senate and get the governor’s support?”
Analyst Michael Pollock from Spectrum Gaming Group, said that allowing a state-owned casino would create a unique situation.

“You’d be creating a situation where a private operator would to some degree be competing against the state that regulates it,” he said. “There’s always going to be question as to whether state policy is going to favour the state-owned property, whether the playing field is going to be level, whether they’re going to be regulated to the same degree. It’s uncharted territory in that sense.”

Illinois Casino Gaming Association Executive Director Tom Swoik however has publically rejected both bills saying the casino market in Illinois is already saturated.

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