CHICAGO — Mayor Richard Daley Tuesday put on his best poker face when asked about the prospects of a casino finally coming to Chicago. He told reporters he’s encouraged by recent developments in Springfield, if only because of the new tax revenue that could result.

By MIKE RAMSEY


GATEHOUSE NEWS SERVICE


 

 



 


CHICAGO — Mayor Richard Daley Tuesday put on his best poker face when asked about the prospects of a casino finally coming to Chicago. He told reporters he’s encouraged by recent developments in Springfield, if only because of the new tax revenue that could result.



Three years ago, Daley proposed a city-owned gambling venue that would share profits with the state, but he was rebuffed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a fellow Chicago Democrat. Now, a Windy City casino is among the budget-balancing solutions being discussed by Blagojevich and Democratic leaders who control the General Assembly.



“There’s always light at the end of the tunnel,” the mayor said at a Chicago appearance. “It’s encouraging that people have realized that you have to have revenue to deal with schools, you have to have revenue to deal with public transportation. The cost goes up.”



A plan under consideration in Springfield would create a Chicago casino and a gambling license each for Waukegan, the south suburbs and a community near O’Hare International Airport. Daley said he doesn’t know how “viable” the loaded-up measure is, but he stressed that new gaming licenses should be kept in public hands.



The mayor has said Chicago gaming operations could be hired out to a private management firm while city and state governments sit back and collect the revenues.


“All the profits come back to people and not to a few individuals,” Daley said Tuesday.



Some policymakers see a potential conflict in public ownership of gaming licenses; state government regulates Illinois casinos.



Cook County was left out of the original state law that authorized riverboat casinos for economically depressed communities. The idea of adding Chicago as a site has resurfaced periodically, but critics have said such a project would generate crime and corruption.



Daley said he does not have any locations in mind for a Chicago casino. Three years ago, he said planners were looking “mostly downtown.”



In last year’s gubernatorial election, gambling became an issue when Republican hopeful Judy Baar Topinka suggested awarding the state’s 10th, unused casino license to a Chicago operation. Blagojevich indicated then he was not in favor of gaming “expansion” but refused to clarify his position. Last week, he signaled he would consider more gambling if lawmakers approve his plans for universal health-care coverage.



Daley wants new revenue for Chicago schools and mass transit. On Tuesday, directors of the Chicago Transit Authority reviewed “contingency” plans — including service cuts and fare hikes —the system may implement if the General Assembly does not provide assistance. The CTA has requested $100 million to plug a gap in its current budget.



Mike Ramsey can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or gnsramsey@sbcglobal.net.