An inside look at Chicago real estate

Are Chicago Casinos a Gamble for the City?

Mark.Miles By
Mark Miles
   | Chicago News

Talk of building a casino (or two, or three) in Chicago has been ongoing for many years now. However, in light of current circumstances pertaining to CTA route cuts, the odds are fairly good that we’ll see some solid decisions on the matter in the near future. With Mayor Daley pushing for the city-owned casino and the Crime Commission adamantly opposed to the idea, it leaves many to question whether bringing gambling to Chicago is beneficial or disadvantageous for city residents.

Recently, the troubling situation surrounding the Chicago Transit Authority has spurred interest from city officials in the revenue that would be generated by constructing a Las Vegas-style casino. It could be used as a source of funds to keep the CTA operational – at least for some time. But, it’s not as simple as just plopping a casino in the middle of downtown and watching the cash flow in. There are potential consequences and tie-ups that have many concerned about the impact on both the city’s tourist industry and the residential population.

For example, where would the casino be located? There are several sites targeted for construction, however, most of the spots are speculative at this point. The alternatives range from a riverfront locale on Lower Wacker Drive, to converting the Congress Hotel in downtown, to renovating the old Main Post Office. Many of the buildings or areas identified as possible casino scenes are currently slated for condominium or retail developments. But, with the current state of Chicago’s housing market and the need for brand new residences at a lull, the fate of these locations could change. Instead of a contemporary multi-use building, neighbors may find a mega-huge gambling complex next door.

On a more positive note, I’ve read a casino of this size would provide almost 2,000 new jobs. Plus, Mayor Daley anticipates it would boost Chicago tourism and generate $150 million per year for city infrastructure improvements and its operating budget. However, it is not known whether the existence of a casino would detract from other popular tourist attractions, such as Navy Pier, museums, shopping and sporting events.