HOMEWOOD | Proponents of a new south suburban casino proposed for a site just off Interstate 80/94 at Halsted Street said one of the proposal’s perks is its potential to attract business from people who live in Northwest Indiana.
The Calumet Region already has casinos in East Chicago, Gary and Hammond. But Craig Burkhardt of the law firm of Barnes & Thornburg LLP told a gathering of more than 100 people Monday the site has the ability to draw gamblers from outside its immediate area.
Burkhardt said drawing people who now gamble at existing casinos would be important.
“People shouldn’t have to drive out to Hammond or Joliet if they choose to engage in the gaming process,” he said. Fellow attorney Jay Boyd finished Burkhardt's thought. “We want to figure out how to draw people who now are going to Hammond or elsewhere,” he said.
The law firm coordinated the gathering at the Irwin Community Center, 18120 Highland Ave., as one of the first steps in what could be a two-year process to build support for a south suburban casino in Homewood. Other proposed sites for the prospective facility include Calumet City, Ford Heights, Lynwood and Country Club Hills.
Monday's meeting, however, focused on the Halsted and 174th streets site, which lies within Homewood and East Hazel Crest.
The presidents those villages said there are many millions of people who live within a 15-minute drive of that site – including 236,660 people in Indiana, said Homewood Village President Rich Hofeld.
Hofeld and Burkhardt, who said he grew up in Homewood before leaving for a legal career in Springfield and Washington, D.C., both said they think the fact that Homewood is not an economically impoverished community like many others with casinos will make the facility more attractive.
Hofeld cited what he called the “political stability” of his hometown, compared to the other Illinois municipalities linked to a new casino.
Burkhardt said he also believed the village's reputation would help overcome any potential perception of a link between gambling and corruption, even though he thinks that reputation is exaggerated.
“Nowadays, they’re the most highly regulated entities, even more so than utility companies,” he said.
He also reminded the Homewood residents the village was once home to Washington Park racetrack.
“It didn’t negatively impact my life, and I later learned the reason I had such a wonderful education with so many amenities is because of the tax revenues from the race track.
“When it went away virtually overnight (due to a 1977 fire), there were many things lost that we haven’t had since,” he said.