Herbert Dyer, Jr.

A gambling casino in downtown Chicago (either land-based or in Lake Michigan) is thisclose to becoming reality. Such an establishment will likely put all other Midwestern casinos out of business.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had a rare meeting Friday at the Argonne National Laboratory (where the atomic bomb was first developed). The stated purpose of the meeting was to discuss who will head up a federal project to develop batteries at Argonne with more storage capacity. During the question period, inquiring reporters wanted to know the status of the casino talks.

Earlier this year, Quinn, who has an almost Calvinistic sense of morality, vetoed a surefire winning and popular bill to build five new Illinois casinos, with the largest, fanciest and, of course, most profitable one to sit right in the heart of Chicago's famed Loop. Quinn’s veto was based on his ethical misgivings about the well-documented evils of such an establishment. Unfortunately for Chicago, the Illinois legislature could not muster enough votes to override Quinn’s veto.

This time around, though, things are a bit different. The mayor of Chicago has offered his rather guarded support for gambling downtown.

“I’m optimistic by the ninth of January that we can come up with a bill that meets all of our criteria,” Quinn said Friday. “The mayor and I are very close on the issue of strong regulation and ethics, and making sure the money goes to schools and infrastructure.”

Mayor Emanuel would not go that far: “But remember,” he said, “this has been 25 years in the making. But that said, as it relates to what the governor noted, some of the issues, on oversight and the type of issues like that, we’re in alignment. And I know from our meeting the governor agrees a hundred percent of the money should go into modernizing our schools.”

The mayor also expressed optimism that a Chicago casino bill would pass in the legislature. “I believe that we are very close.”

The Illinois General Assembly’s last day of business is Jan. 9. Thus, as “lame duck” legislators, they are more likely to be bold and daring in prosecuting the people’s business. They will be in session a week before the new legislature is sworn in.

John Cullerton (D-Chicago) said through a spokeswoman that gambling in Chicago is not necessary “very close.”

“Until there is an agreement with the governor,” Rikeesha Phelon said in an email, “I’d be hesitant to characterize anything as ‘movement.’”

Rep. Lou Lang, the House point man on gambling, said the governor “would do well to negotiate with members of the legislature.”

“I haven’t seen it yet,” said Lang, (D-Skokie). “If it’s a full agreement and it covers everybody, I will be happy to support it, but we’ll have to see.”


Yes, as Chicago is the commercial, intellectual and entertainment heart of the Midwest, a gambling casino would bring ’em in from all around. Currently, there are literally dozens of water-based casinos all around Chicago—from its neighbors to the west and east, Wisconsin and Indiana, respectively, various rivers (including the Mississippi), all the way up to Minnesota. A single casino in Chicago would virtually shut them all down. As it stands now, thousands of Chicagoans trek every week to those faraway places to gamble.

But none of those other casinos in the Midwest offers the pizzazz, panache, or excitement that good old Chicago does. Yes, that includes its reputation as a rough-and-tumble kind of town, dangerous even, mysterious always. It’s the place you go when you don’t want to be found, or to find whatever your heart desires.

I’m thinking a Chicago casino would soon easily eclipse Atlantic City, and would, eventually, even give Las Vegas a run for the money.