Calumet City Mayor Michelle Markieiwicz Qualkinbush is right to be concerned about the number of vacant homes in the city. But looking to a casino as an answer to the city's problems is a big gamble.
There has been a lot of talk in Illinois, including in the Legislature, about putting a new casino in downtown Chicago and another in the south suburbs.
"Having a casino in Calumet City would be such an overwhelming economic engine for us," Qualkinbush said. "It would make it possible for us to do so much more for people if we had those kinds of tax revenues coming in."
It would behoove Qualkinbush and others in Illinois to look at what's happening with the casino industry in Northwest Indiana.
Casino revenues at each of Northwest Indiana's five casinos fell on a year-over-year basis in April, for a total decline of 2.9 percent.
Even in Las Vegas, the casino industry is changing.
Rick Mazer, former general manager of Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, now is regional president over several properties in Las Vegas. Mazer spoke at the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority's annual luncheon last week.
Revenues from gambling have suffered, so Mazer's company is now putting an emphasis on entertainment with a $500 million development that won't include gambling. This new mall will be 70 percent dining and 30 percent retail, Mazer explained.
The south suburbs, as well as Northwest Indiana, could learn a lot from Mazer's experience.
Calumet City and others shouldn't pin their economic development hopes on a new casino. Even if it's built, the market appears to be saturated. Calumet City might win for a while, but not in the long run.
Instead, bring something new and exciting to the Chicago area.
Northwest Indiana is developing homegrown businesses at the Purdue Technology Center. Calumet City could partner with a university to create a similar tech incubator that could generate game-changing entrepreneurs.
Or build on the city's "Blues Brothers" heritage and work toward turning the city into a music mecca. Who can forget the "Ray's Music Exchange" scene from that iconic movie?
Instead of betting the city's future on a casino, try to attract an industry that isn't already mature, one with growth potential.