MARK KIESLING: South suburbs betting on casinos for income

2012-12-05T00:00:00Z 2012-12-20T21:25:34Z MARK KIESLING: South suburbs betting on casinos for income nwitimes.com
December 05, 2012 12:00 am

It's been a long time since former Cook County State's Attorney Ben Adamowski busted up slot machines for the newspaper cameras.

Adamowski, who served from 1956 to 1960, "closed down illegal gambling dens," writes Chicago's fine crime author Richard Carl Lindberg.

Ben wouldn't recognize it today. What was underground is now above ground, sanctioned by our legislators.

And now, in the wake of a successful bid for communities to opt for video poker gaming, two local towns are making plans to deal with a casino license that has not even been granted yet.

Homewood and East Hazel Crest are kicking around an idea to turn the abandoned Sheraton Hotel at 174th and Halsted streets right on the village line and a poker chip's toss from Interstate 80/294 into Chicago.

Homewood village officials approved the development idea unanimously, while only one East Hazel Crest trustee demurred.

Calumet City, Lynwood, Ford Heights and Country Club Hills also want a casino license.

I don't think even Illinois would put five casinos within a radius of a few miles. Would it?

So someone might get a casino, while four will go away hat in hand. One thing for sure, lawyers will make money. Homewood and Cal City already have hired their guns.

The looming question is whether the south suburbs and Northwest Indiana have room for that many casinos.

Casino gambling writers say it's been the poor economy, not cross-state competition, that led to Indiana's 2.3 percent revenue drop in 2011 over 2010. Figures for 2012 are not out yet.

Not all see it that way. When Ohio opened casinos in Columbus and Cleveland, Indiana state Rep. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, predicted "a huge hit."

Estimated losses because of cross-state gambling were $103.6 million, with a concomitant 38 percent drop in patrons, according to the state's Legislative Services Agency.

That said, if I represented the south suburbs or the South Side of Chicago, I would be working on some kind of fiscal tourniquet to stop the flow of green into Indiana.

An Indiana casino's head of security once bet me (imagine that!) I could not find two Indiana cars in a row in the first six or so tiers of the parking garage.

It was a gentleman's bet between two gentlemen of questionable pedigree, and I lost it.

One thing's a sure bet, though. A casino in Homewood or Cal City or Lynwood will alter the face of Indiana gambling since it came on the scene in 1993.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com or (219) 933-4170. 

 

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