It has been three weeks since state Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, proposed legislation creating a state-owned mega casino in Chicago, and Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have yet to comment on it.
Join the discussion below, or Read more at The Southtown Star.
#23 Apr 16, 2014
Chicago casino plans pitched at gaming hearing
April 16, 2014 (CHICAGO)(WLS)-- Illinois lawmakers are in Chicago Wednesday to discuss plans to expand gambling in the state and among the possibilities is the creation of a land-based casino in the city.
And not just "a land-based casino in the city," but potentially the largest casino in the world, generating hundreds of millions of dollars each year to address state and city fiscal issues.
The "Chicago only" version of gaming expansion would authorize just one huge casino in the city with a capacity for 10,000 gaming positions.
"To the extent the casino is granted to Chicago, it ought to be done for economic development purposes and done in downtown Chicago," said John Carpenter, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.
The state would own the casino and split the tax-free profits with the city.
"They have an option in terms of their 50 percent of the total revenue generated to spend it all on pensions, all on capital or all on education," said Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island).
Another option under consideration would authorize a smaller Chicago casino and four others elsewhere in Illinois.
Gambling addict Melinda Litchfield joined religious leaders to oppose new casinos.
"The people that are going to be providing the income for these casinos are the ones that the state is going to be bailing out in every way there is," she said.
"Sit down and think of reasonable ways that can raise money. There's no quick fixes for the problems that we have," said Rev. Charles Straight, Faith U.M.C.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for most of the state's existing casinos says newly authorized slot machines in neighborhood bars have over-saturated the market.
"Gaming revenues statewide for the original nine casinos are down nearly 43 percent," said Tom Swoik, Illinois Casino Gaming Association.
Earlier this month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a property tax increase to address just over half of Chicago's unfunded pension debt.
Would a casino provide the revenue source for the rest of what's owed? Rep. Rita wants a possible yes or no before the end of May.
"The goal is before we adjourn to put a bill up for a vote," Rita said.
Finally, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce says it supports the smaller city casino as much as a mega-casino as long its downtown. Anywhere else, chamber officials say, would greatly reduce the economic impact.
"Taxpayers always pay dearly."
#25 Apr 20, 2014
Prosecutors: Man kicked down door and assaulted girl, 4, in Calumet Park
A man is charged with raping a four-year-old girl in Calumet Park, after he allegedly kicked in the door of the girl's home and assaulted her.
A man is charged with raping a four-year-old girl in Calumet Park, after he allegedly kicked in the door of the girl's home and assaulted her.
Calumet Park, IL, United States
By Carlos Sadovi
A convicted felon was ordered held without bail after he allegedly kicked down a door to get into a Calumet Park home where he sexually assaulted a 4-year-old girl before police found him smoking in a closet, officials said.
Demetrio Campbell, 27, of the 2100 block of West Fulton in Blue Island appeared in the Markham courthouse on Wednesday when he was ordered held without bail, said Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County State's Attorney's office.
He is charged with predatory criminal sexual assault and home invasion, said Simonton.
The attack happened on April 6 on the 12300 block of South Elizabeth in the south suburb, Simonton said.
The 4-year-old girl and her older sister were playing outside when Campbell tried to lure the girls but the younger girl refused. The older girl briefly walked across to the street but returned to her sister, Simonton said.
The man then followed the girl but both girls ran into a home and locked the doors behind them. The man started banging on the door and tried to get inside. He then kicked down the door and made his way inside, Simonton said.
Once inside the home he told another person who was inside to leave the home which they did, said Simonton.
At that point he took the 4-year-old into a bedroom and sexually assaulted her, said Simonton.
The person who was orderd out called for police and when they arrived they found the girl in the bedroom where she had been assaulted.
Police found Campbell in the bedroom closet smoking a cigarette, said Simonton. The girls were taken to an area hospital for an evaluation, said Simonton.
He has been convicted of two past felonies for residential burglary and aggravated robbery, said Simonton.
His next court date is April 28 at the Markham courthouse, Simonton said.
#26 Apr 23, 2014
If you want Ethics, if you want transparency, State Rep Bob Rita is not your man. I am very sorry to have to report this to you. It would be better for all involved, if he was a different person. He has three jobs while unemployment in his 28th district is one of the highest in Illinois. He will be receiving three pensions. He knows one, thing how to game the system, this is for sure. I would like to invite you to the 28th Legislative district so you completely understand what we are talking about. Investigate the corruption in Calumet Township. the closed bridges, and corruption in Blue Island which he politically controls. This is the kind of world he presides over. He is far from the Elder Statesman he dreams to be.
Casino bill must include Chicago and safeguards
Haggling over legislation to bring a casino to Chicago has become a springtime ritual. This time around, state Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, has dealt out two new amendments that just might get the job done.
To our way of thinking, thats welcome news, but only if the talks in Springfield have no influence on City Halls continued efforts to sharply reduce costs, especially the costs of pensions. Chicagos finances are in dire straits, and a casino years down the road, if ever promises at best a relatively shallow pot of gold.
The Legislature has twice passed gambling bills, but both were vetoed by Gov. Pat Quinn. Last years version never made it as far as Quinns desk. But Rita has been holding meetings since summer and full-fledged hearings since January to try to shape a bill that can actually pass. His latest two amendments, floated at a hearing on Wednesday, both would give Chicago a casino.
The narrower version would provide for a single Chicago casino that could be the largest in the world, with revenues divided between the city and state. The broader plan would add four other casinos in southern Cook County, Lake County, Vermilion County and Winnebago County, as well as slot machines at most horse-racing tracks. Chicagos casino under that scenario would be smaller, with a maximum of 4,000 positions instead of 10,000.
Wed be fine with a Chicago-only plan, because the city, which already draws many visitors, is the best place in the state to plunk down a new casino or any casino. A city casino would not only encourage current visitors to spend more money while they are here, but also draw additional travelers and conventioneers, people who would spend money in restaurants, hotels and stores. Facing serious financial problems, Chicago needs the financial boost. We share the concerns of critics that casinos bring problems, such as binge gambling and crime, but thats already here, just past the city limits and over the state line.
The Chicago-only plan might not fly in Springfield, where many lawmakers salivate at the thought of the casino revenues and jobs that could boost struggling towns such as Rockford and Danville. In the end, unfortunately, the plan that works politically might prove to be the broader option for five new casinos. A strength of both casino bills is that they call for all revenues to be earmarked for education, capital projects and pensions.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made it clear he wants to reform the citys finances before pursuing casino revenues. He really has no choice. Revenues from a casino wouldnt begin to flow, city officials say, and even after seven years of operation likely wouldnt produce more than $120 million annually.
If that seems like a lot of money, consider this: Chicagos pension liability alone comes to $19.8 billion.
At its very best, that is to say, a Chicago casino would never be more than a somewhat modest part of the solution to the citys problems.
#27 Apr 23, 2014
The question now is where Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan stand. Members of the Emanuel administration did not testify on Wednesday, but if the mayor wants this to be the spring that casino legislation becomes law, he needs to go to Springfield and make his case.
There is a real chance for a serious bill to emerge this legislative session.
#28 Apr 23, 2014
Your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren will pay for Pat, Mike, Rahm, and Bob's proven poor choices.
Look at any of the vacant buildings, strip malls or empty venues, restaurants, and casino parking lots.
If you build it; "The People Are Not Coming"!
#29 Apr 23, 2014
Nice to be able to find parking spots when you actually need them and find "the malls are no longer hang out spots".
People seem to really get it and are saving their money for themselves.
#30 Apr 24, 2014
Do not take any Financial advice State Rep 28th Bob Rita is offering. Most of the 28th district is a financial mess. Do not believe us, meet him personally, invest some time to visit and talk to him. As a Elected person, he is so arrogant he refuses to be held accountable.
Government-owned city casino would be a bad bet
: April 23, 2014
Really? A casino is a good idea for Chicago and the State of Illinois? The Chicago Crime Commission opposes the government-owned Chicago mega-casino and testified that it could lead to an increase in corruption and organized crime.
Every other casino in Illinois was paid for with private funding, so taxpayers bore none of the financial risk! Mega-casino projects have failed in other states and resulted in taxpayer bailouts. New Jersey was recently forced to spend $300 million bailing out a bankrupt mega-casino in Atlantic City.
#31 Apr 24, 2014
When state and federal funds are used for "Special Projects" TAXPAYER BAILOUTS FOLLOW! Illinois Taxpayers CAN NOT sustain any more Pet Projects!
Sanctions are Needed for the elected officials involved.
#32 Apr 26, 2014
Following the wide field of documentation, connections, elected officials, and cronies from trial to sentencing should be an overdue "Wake Up Call".
#33 Apr 26, 2014
You are SPOT ON! So TRUE. Those committing this corruption, have been given assurances that the Cook County States Attorney, Illinois Attorney General will not use there resources to prosecute.
#34 May 17, 2014
Kadner: A stupefying silence on gambling
May 16, 2014
Illinois is short on money to pay for education, social services and has a multimillion-dollar backlog of unpaid bills.
Chicago is facing a major pension crisis.
And every politician in this state talks about the need to create jobs.
Yet Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and almost every other political leader in Illinois have refused to make any public statements about a bill that could address all of these problems.
A few months ago, state Rep. Robert Rita, D-Blue Island, sponsored two new initiatives to expand casino gambling in Illinois.
One of his proposals would create a state-owned mega casino in Chicago that could generate about $1 billion a year, according to the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.
The second would allow for a smaller state-owned casino in Chicago, four new casinos at other locations in Illinois (including one in the Southland) and up to 600 slot machines at horse tracks.
Just last year, the governor and mayor were clamoring for a casino bill.
I want to build (children) new schools with science and lab facilities and libraries and gyms so they can compete in the 21st century, Emanuel said in explaining the need for casino revenue.
Last spring, Quinn (who previously had vetoed gambling expansion bills) was so anxious to get a bill passed that he accused House Speaker Michael Madigan of working behind the scenes to scuttle the bill.
Quinn told me that the night before a final draft of the casino bill was to be written, the legislative staff member who was writing it got himself lost. When I asked him what that meant, Quinn repeated,He got lost. He couldnt be found.
Rita, whos the chief sponsor of the gambling bills in the House, said Quinn called him several times in the final days of the legislative session last spring, urging him to call the measure for a vote.
Rita never did so, later saying that after reviewing the bill put together by state Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, and state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie he found it overly complicated, confusing and lacking transparency.
Whatever his reasons at the time, Rita in the past year has held public hearings throughout the state and proposed two amendments to the previous bill in an effort to address what he considered to be the most troublesome issues.
But Quinn and Emanuel have refused to publicly comment on Ritas bill. Madigan, D-Chicago, who long ago recused himself from the casino process due to a conflict of interest, isnt talking about the measure.
So after years of sometimes hostile but always interesting public debate about expanding the casino industry, the plan appears to be going nowhere this spring.
Its possible that Quinn and Emanuel think Ritas ideas have no merit. Fine. But they never said that.
They couldve spoken out months ago, when Rita revealed his ideas, rebooting the process so a casino bill could still be called this spring.
When the issue has come up in the past, Quinn and Emanuel have said they wanted the Legislature to focus on pension reform rather than more casinos suggesting that lawmakers couldnt walk and chew gum at the same time.
The Legislature is pondering all sorts of important legislation this spring, including a change in the school funding formula that could certainly wait another year.
Lawmakers may soon pass a state budget without the funding to support it because there appears to be no clear majority supporting Quinns call for making the 5 percent income tax permanent.
If the income tax rate is reduced as of Jan. 1, the state stands to lose more than $1 billion in revenue, which would cause major cuts in programs that are already underfunded, such as public education and social services.
And theres still a chance that the pension reform bill passed last year could be overturned by the courts as unconstitutional.
#35 May 17, 2014
By the time the proposed casinos turn a surplus the children will be retirees.
#36 May 17, 2014
Given the fact that the Senate and House previously have passed casino expansion bills, it makes no sense that the issue has come to a standstill now, although the need for revenue remains the same.
Its an election year, of course, and its possible that Quinn doesnt want a public debate on a casino bill that could supply ammunition to his Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner.
But Rauners primary argument has been that the state has failed to create jobs as taxes continue to increase. Casinos would create jobs.
Im reminded of how Indiana gambling officials openly mocked Illinois political leaders a few years ago when there was talk about a riverboat casino in the south suburbs assuring nervous casino owners at the time that nothing would come of it because historically Illinois does everything wrong.
Thats a reference to several decisions in Illinois over the years that resulted in a casino boom in northwest Indiana, funded largely with cash from gamblers in Illinois.
A casino in the south suburbs, backed by the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, would stem that outflow of money. Casinos in Chicago and the south suburbs would practically dry it up.
And a casino in Chicago would attract millions of dollars not just from Illinois residents but from conventioneers and tourists who visit the third-largest city in the nation.
Instead of putting a casino where the money is, Illinois has casinos in places such as Joliet, Aurora, East St. Louis, Alton and the booming metropolis of Metropolis.
I get that the original intent of the state law allowing casinos was to help economically depressed river towns. But nows the time to do whats best for the economically struggling state and city of Chicago.
At least say something! Take a position on the Rita proposals. Thats what leaders are supposed to do.
But all we get from Quinn and Emanuel is silence.
Hey Phil, what did you expect? The Residents of Blue Island are experiencing the same Stupefying Silence on the closed bridges. State Rep Bob Rita promised the voters last year that the money was available, and all the voters had to do was vote for his candidate Domingo Vargas.
#37 May 17, 2014
Voters got EMPTY PROMISES.
#38 May 18, 2014
So the media did a piece on the Bridges of Blue Island. We had the mayor and Rita on camera stating they are working on fixing the problem. They received the money already under Peloquin who spent it on other things.
Rita is setting up his daughter to run for Mayor. Please Blue Island, do not let this happen.
#39 May 18, 2014
The Mayor blamed past administration. Did he forget that he was part of the past administration along with all the other crooks. I pray one day the people of Blue Island see the light. It's apparent that even City Workers (fire/police) do not agree and see what is going on.
#40 May 18, 2014
Better ways to pick public boards
By The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Instead of the Bermuda triangle, let's just call it the Illinois triangle. Clout, campaign contributions and jobs all come together in one neat little geometric form that often drives Illinois politics, while also pushing cynicism about government to the high water mark among Illinois citizens.
Like this recent example: Gov. Pat Quinn sweeps a toll-hike naysayer off the Illinois tollway board and brings on the leader of a powerful union, James Sweeney, president of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. That's the first leg of the triangle.
Leg two: Quinn grabs onto transportation as one of his premier pre-election giveaways to voters, standing up at ribbon cuttings for new interchanges that please locals -- and send lots of jobs to members of Local 150, who run heavy equipment.
The triangle is complete when Local 150 gives Quinn boatloads of campaign cash:$450,000 since the 2010 election, including a $250,000 check in January, as Daily Herald transportation writer Marni Pyke uncovered in a column Monday. Another PAC chaired by Sweeney contributed $150,000 to Quinn's campaign in 2010 and 2011.
Just like its Atlantic Ocean counterpart, the Illinois triangle is pretty fishy. It's not illegal, but it should be. Everyone who's part of the triangle reaps some direct benefit. Everyone who's not part of the triangle is regarded as a side issue. That group would include the toll-paying public (plus former tollway Director Bill Morris of Grayslake, who voted against a toll hike to fuel the 15-year,$12 billion tollway building program known as Move Illinois and got moved off the board in 2011, when Sweeney and four others were appointed.)
Susan Garrett, chair of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, has one suggestion we endorse to dismantle the triangle. She proposes industry representatives, including union leaders, be banned from public boards whose actions directly affect that industry's financial interests.
Going a step further, it's worth looking at borrowing an idea from the Northeastern Illinois Public Transit Task Force, which was convened by Quinn to react to another scandal involving appointed board directors, this time at Metra. The task force's proposal, now waiting action by lawmakers and the governor, suggests having prospective board appointees vetted by an independent panel.
Expertise is important on public boards, but we're confident that can be found without involving candidates who stand to enrich their associates as well as the campaign coffers of the politician making the appointment.
The destructive forces of the Illinois triangle crop up all too often. It's time to do away with it and create a new geometry with the public interest front and center.
#41 May 30, 2014
Mr. Rita, why don't you concentrate on the major problems in your 28th district?
Like closed bridges, crime, unemployment?
Casino expansion plan delayed but not dead, sponsor says
The south suburban lawmaker pushing a gambling expansion package in Springfield said Friday its delayed, its not dead after he announced he wont call his bill for a vote before the end of the spring legislative session.
We dont have a bill thats ready, Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Not only are Downstate conflicts over slot machines at Fairmount Park Race Track unresolved, Rita said support from Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are key to passing a casino bill.
Rita has said neither man is engaged in the casino debate Emanuel has insisted on tackling pension reform first but Rita said hell be reaching out to both over the summer with hopes of passing a bill during the fall veto session.
Chicago is going to be part of the mix if were going to move forward, Rita said.
Rita sent a letter to legislative leaders last week, hoping to give the bill new life after what he described as an underwhelming response to two alternative proposals he pitched in March.
The first would authorize a state-owned Chicago casino with 4,000 to 10,000 gaming positions. By comparison, existing Illinois casinos are limited to 1,200. Under that plan, Chicago would split the casinos revenue equally with Illinois, though Cook County and south suburban communities would get a cut of Chicagos half.
The other alternative would give Chicago a casino with 4,000 to 6,000 gaming positions and allow casinos in the south suburbs and Lake, Winnebago and Vermilion counties. It would also allow slot machines at some horse racing tracks, but not Fairmount Park out of concern for competition with nearby casinos.
Rita held public hearings, including one in Chicago and another in the south suburbs, hoping to craft a bill that would finally pass muster with Quinn, who has vetoed previous attempts by the legislature to expand gambling in Illinois.
But in his letter last week to House Speaker Michael Madigan and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Rita said he still saw several obstacles to passing a gambling expansion bill that the governor can sign into law.
#42 May 30, 2014
One scam after another.
#43 May 30, 2014
Looks like Bobby is planning ahead! When he leaves state government, he is looking forward to a
career as a gaming company executive.
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