August 23 has come and gone, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is no closer to convincing Gov. Pat Quinn that Chicago’s golden casino ticket should become reality.
Since May 31, a bill has been sitting in Springfield which provides for five new casinos, including what would become the state’s biggest gambling hall in Chicago. The city would be granted 4,000 gaming positions, some of which would go to O’Hare and Midway Airports.
But the legislation also gives the city its own casino oversight board. And opponents, including the governor, say that can lead to only one thing.
"There are bad guys out there," Quinn said Tuesday. "Criminal elements…organized crime, that want to infiltrate. And we’re not going to let them do it."
Quinn contends that as written, the Chicago casino board would have greater regulatory authority than the Illinois Gaming Commission, which he argues has been the only barrier stopping unsavory forces who have attempted to muscle in on the state’s existing casinos. In his eyes, that makes the bill a non-starter.
"We're not going to have any kind of expansion of gambling in our state that’s done in a slipshod manner," Quinn said. "If there isn’t integrity in the process, I can’t support it."
For his part, the mayor says the new casino would be the financial engine which would provide for miles of new roads and sewer lines, along with millions of dollars in rehab of the Chicago Transit Authority.
"We're going to invest the money in the future," he said. "That creates 20,000 jobs in the construction industry."
"We have had oversight in our casinos, that's proper. I don’t have a problem with that. What we have lacked is an infrastructure investment in the City of Chicago."
How the two parties can find common ground isn’t clear. For his part, Quinn insists he won’t sign any bill which doesn’t give oversight to the Illinois Gaming Board. Besides, he says, he technically has nothing to act on.
"The sponsors of the bill that passed on May 31 believe so much in their bill they’ve kept it in their own pocket," he said. "The bill isn't even on my desk."
Emanuel doesn't say how he’ll bring Quinn to his way of thinking, but insists the casino is too critical to let it slip away.
"We can have oversight and economic growth," he said. "What we’re lacking is job creation and economic growth. And I will not let the City of Chicago be held hostage by other people’s decisions, be that Washington, or Springfield. We have to invest in our future. And we'll get there."