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Chicago Mayor Still Wants Casino, More Money For Schools

Rahm Emanuel Keeping The Pressure On Gov. Pat Quinn: Report


Credit: Reuters

The decades-old idea for a casino in Chicago marches on, as “schools” continue to be the buzzword for some pro-gambling politicians looking to get what they want.

The Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that the city’s democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel, is leaning on the state’s democratic governor, Pat Quinn, to make something happen soon, before the current legislative session ends in January.

However, other thorny issues are on the table for Illinois lawmakers, and the casino plan is a difficult one to sort out. Quinn vetoed a plan in August, citing “loopholes for mobsters.” The opportunity still exists for lawmakers to override his decision.

One likely perk from the casino would be increased funding for the city’s schools.

The mayor told the Chicago Tribune: “I was advocating — as have other people for 25 years — a casino for the city of Chicago, but one in which I committed all the resources will go into school modernization, building new schools and modernizing our schools so our kids will have the best facilities to learn in.”

However, according to The Chicago Tribune, Quinn also had concerns about whether the casino bill he vetoed would have given back enough to the state’s schools.

The governor said in a statement: “We cannot forget that Illinois’ economic future relies on the education of our children. This bill does not provide adequate support for education. The budget for pre-school to 12th grade education was reduced by $210 million by the General Assembly this fiscal year and faces more challenges in the immediate future. Any expansion of gaming must prioritize the needs of our students.”

Emanuel, who has kids in expensive private schools, is a reviled figure by some involved with Chicago’s public school system, especially the unions. This fall, thousands of teachers went on strike to protest their working conditions in the Windy City.

While President Obama’s former White House Chief of Staff continues to campaign for a casino in his backyard, Illinois has undergone significant gambling expansion already.

In October, bars and charitable operations rolled out video gambling. The plan is for some of those tax dollars to make their way toward education. The Illinois Lottery ventured into the online realm earlier this year after a favorably ruling by the federal government. Some of that revenue is also earmarked for schools. Gambling supporters want other online games added to the mix.

According to information from the American Gaming Association, Illinois currently has 10 commercial “river boat” casinos. In addition to a more traditional property in Chicago, the vetoed casino bill would have allowed four others to be built within the state.

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus

Tags: Casino,   Chicago,   Emanuel,   Quinn