Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Don't bet on Chicago casino



     There is something garish about plaid suit jackets — a certain Nathan Detroit vibe, particularly if the pattern is on the loud side.
     I have a few such jackets. Though more tasteful than the "Guys and Dolls" wardrobe, I hope, they hardly ever get worn. But my eye recently fell upon a subdued blue and black job, with — geez — an orange thread.
     "Where did I get this?" I asked my wife, holding up the hanger, checking the label. A store in Cannes — and was transported to the South of France, where we intended to go to Monte Carlo. Men visiting the Casino, the guidebooks instructed, must wear jackets and I, with a Slavic peasant's obedience built into my DNA, went out and bought this one.
     A purchase that led me to feel extra stupid the next day, leaning against the vingt-et-un table at the sparsely populated Casino, along with a handful of Eastern European tourists in their motley Members Only plastic windbreakers—"jackets" in the loose sense of the term. I played for half an hour, realized I had the same pathetic pile of franc chips I had started with, cashed out and left
     This is a long way of saying that the casino reality is far from the James Bond fantasy. For both individuals and for cities. If I see one more politician or lobbyist rub his palms together, chortling over the millions untold that Chicago will pull in from its casino, any moment now, I'm going to scream. (Exactly what I'll scream, I'm not sure, maybe: "And George has a piece of land, and we're going to be farmers!")
     First, it might never happen. A Chicago casino has been a political will-o'-the-wisp for decades. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Politicians giving away the ranch, spending money they don't have, telling themselves (and us) that good old Uncle Casino will show up any moment and settle the bill.
     Second, if through some miracle, Chicago finally snags a casino, it might not work, or not work like we hope. When Harrah's opened New Orleans' first casino, its location and construction were so badly botched that revenues were 60 percent below projections, and the whole project, rather than bailing out anybody, went bankrupt. When Cleveland's first casino opened in 2012, Ohio officials estimated it would bring in revenues of $1.2 billion. In 2014, it took in a quarter of that, and state tax revenues have been disappointing. Casino taxes "hardly made a dent" in budget deficits, according to Wendy Patton, senior project director of the State Fiscal Project of Policy Matters Ohio, calling casinos "another blow to local government finances."
     So don't count your eggs before they're in the pudding.
     Which goes for more than casinos. Such as the Obama Library. Well, I guess Chicago is going to get it — all together now, fling your rough wool caps in the air and shout, "Hurrah!" — but is the decision really whether it goes into Jackson Park or Washington Park?
     The whole point of libraries is to turn to the past for instruction and understanding. So let's do that. I pick the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, because one of my strongest memories of using it is the long, long cab ride to get there, stuck on some lonely promontory, jutting into the harbor, leaning forward in the cab seat, watching the meter click, thinking, "Where IS this place?" Kind of odd to have put it here. Wouldn't you think a Kennedy Library would be at Harvard?
     The short answer is, that was the plan. Kennedy himself, a month before his death, visited the future site in Cambridge. So what happened? It took about 10 seconds of sleuthing to find this nugget on the library website:

     In 1975, the Kennedy Library Corporation abandoned plans to build the library on the site at Harvard University originally selected by President Kennedy due to prolonged delays in freeing the site for construction and opposition by some Cambridge residents who feared urban congestion caused by visitors and tourists.
     Well, that would explain it. Note the date. A dozen years of site battle hell. If I would have to bet — and I try not to — I'd say we'll have an Obama Library open, in 2027, due to delays we can't imagine, yet. Still, that'll be long before Chicago sees its first casino.

37 comments:

  1. Why don't we legalize marijuana? Barbara MP

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  2. Rahm might as well throw all his chips on the table and go for a whorehouse at Washington and Dearborn -- whorehouses never lose money.

    john

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    1. The Chicago City Council could manage to mitigate the profitability of a whorehouse. Freebies for themselves, and other select city employees, would leave little or no access for paying customers.

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    2. Wait a minute... There's not already a whorehouse at Washington and Dearborn?

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  3. Exactly Barbara MP! ...or sees its first casino long before medical marijuana is available in Illinois. What is it with this state? Why is everything so agonizingly slow to be considered or enacted here? Is it our bumpkin politicians or all the competing interests or just because we're as backwards here as the crackers down south? No wonder nothing gets done and our state financials are in the toilet.

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    1. I could be wrong, but I thought the reason a Chicago casino hasn't come along by now is that there were so many people fighting for a piece of it, undermining and suing each other, that the whole initiative was paralyzed. Picture a bunch of fat guys trying frantically to get through a narrow doorway all at the same time.

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  4. I fear a Chicago casino, will face the same barrier to profitability, as any other city run entertainment venue. It will be staffed to the gills with a six figure salaried Board of Directors, and other redundant hanger oners.

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  5. Well said on all points, Mr. S.

    As for the marijuana, not interested.

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  6. Speaking of Monaco, it's glory days are over. Now their pretend royal family puts on a show.

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  7. If a Daley nephew were in the casino business, it would be in Meigs Field already. Alas, Richard M. drained the city before Patrick "Michael Corleone" Daley could be elevated.

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  8. Brilliance from NeilMay 13, 2015 at 8:17 AM

    "The $500 million the city has paid out to settle cop abuse cases is the exact same as it owes to cop pensions, so maybe, if cops were a little more reluctant to crack skulls, we wouldn't be as broke as we are."

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    1. Ha ha...such a creative bunch on this blog.

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    2. I know for an absolute fact in one case that the City lawyers tanked one of their own police brutality cases and the plaintiff lawyer "sprinkled the infield" with the proceeds from the settlement. One must realize that if the City "wins" a brutality case there is no windfall of cash. I wonder how much of that $500 Million was scattered among crooked City lawyers and judges. A friend of mine who was a labor union boss for many years used to say about Chicago: "Ain't nothing legit, not even fishing."

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    3. Sounds about right, Anon. There will never be enough cash to take care of what needs to be taken care of (I keep picturing a hamster wheel, it keeps spinning and goes nowhere.)

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  9. The most compelling argument for a Chicago casino is that it's stupid to let that money go to Indiana and Rosemont. The most compelling argument against a Chicago casino is that casinos are effectively regressive taxes - if voluntary ones. I can't help but think though that if they converted the State of Illinois building to a casino (those open floors are terrible for offices but seem well suited for gaming, maybe with some hotel suites thrown in) they could achieve some significant revenue, not just from the casino but from the boost to tourism/downtown hotels/etc.

    I'd take my chances http://instantrimshot.com/

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    1. There isn't a casino in Rosemont. It's in Des Plaines, just across the street from Rosemont.

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    2. I stand corrected. The place that really could use one is Waukegan - the downtown is a perpetual dump but a casino might help things and regardless it has great views, Metra service, would keep some money out of the Milwaukee casino, etc.

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  10. The reason that Chicago doesn't have a casino is because when they were handing out the first 10 licenses, Richie "The Idiot" Daley decided Chicago didn't need one, so the state spent years trying to give it to Rosemont, but since Rosemont is actually more corrupt than Chicago, that finally died.
    But ever since then, the state has prevented Chicago from getting one out of hatred of Richie "The Idiot" Daley.

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  11. Hard to work up a good rant about this casino idea, even after all these years. I suppose it makes sense to try to siphon off some of the money going to the suburbs and the Loosier State, but the idea that this casino will solve the fiscal crisis is absurd. Seems that many are finally concluding that the most practical way to with deal with the costs of policing frowned-upon activities, such as smoking marijuana, is to simply legalize and tax them. Why wouldn't that work with any "vice" that doesn't involve unwilling participants? A whorehouse at Clark and Dearborn, a casino in the State of Illinois building and an opium den at Block 37. Ah, the "Theater District" would finally be hopping!

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    1. They can run the 'Daley Deal'.....bend over and get screwed.

      RC

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    2. lol, jackash, loosier state, good one

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  12. Since pensions were sort of brought up here lately, what gall (if one reads today's ST) on that dispatcher thinking taxpayers should be paying for his 90K a year pension and retiring at 53.

    As for the police blotter today, including the train rapist, gee, why are these folks in jail again? Oh yes, must be racism.

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    1. Hey, Anhydrous. Taxpayers pay ALL public salaries and ALL pensions. Where do you think the money comes from? The never-ending stream of tax revenue that feeds the never-ending appetite of bloated, inefficient, corrupt government.

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    2. To Anon at 2:15- don't be a troglodyte

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    3. Remember when I speak, people listen.

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  13. I know that, but this is just one of the more bloated examples. The point was he expects us to keep paying. This is an interesting article from Mihapolous today.

    As for the Obama library, they think they'll make all this money with tourists, but due to the area, many may be afraid to drive around there, or on the road to get there. I support the Pres. and I guess it does belong on the south side but there will be a downside too.

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    1. The Museum of Science and Industry does OK. And people go to U.S. Cellular Field (if anyone actually calls it that).

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    2. Sox park not really by that- yes Museum of S & I fine, I wasn't quite sure how close that was, I know U of C is right there by S&I-just was not sure about where WAsh. or Jeff park were- At any rate, it still might not make the $ they think it will. Are Pres. libraries ever a huge attraction, other than Lincoln's?

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    3. I didn't mean that it was nearby, just that it's in kind of a rougher area, but people are willing to go there.

      Most are probably not what you'd call huge attractions. I found Herbert Hoover's fascinating, but being in West Branch, IA, I'm guessing it doesn't do as well as Lincoln's.

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    4. Hoover, please, don't get me started on what he didn't do for the workers or vets. Not that I was around then, but as I read in my studies. Thank goodness for FDR and the New Deal.

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    5. I understand that after the initial hoopla wears off, the Pres. libraries don't get a lot of visitors or money.

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    6. I'm not going to take a position as a Hoover apologist, but he did amazing things for hunger relief after WWI.

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    7. Yes, I'm aware of that, especially in Belgium. Too bad he wasn't so worried about the hungry ones in America during his admin. That was the Republican thought of the '20's it seems. Sort of like today. Coolidge had some form of trickle down econ. theory in his admin. too. We knew later how that would work.

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  14. Why would you think anyone would be afraid to travel to Washington or Jefferson Park?

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  15. Not on topic, but I would like to offer an update on something I posted re Neil's column about the Thornton Quarry. I had recalled a quarry in my home town that got filled with water and became a somewhat dangerous illegal swimming hole until the city took it over and made swimming safe. When I suggested that something of the sort might happen to Thornton, someone disputed the possibility, pointing out that swimming wouldn't be allowed because the water would become quickly polluted. Fearing I might have imagined it all, I checked with some of my homies and also asked Mr. Google. The city is Racine, and the 40 acre limestone quarry we used to high dive into is still there, now the prime feature of Quarry Lake Park, offering swimming, picnicking and whatever else goes on in public parks.

    What makes the quarry viable for swimming is the fact that it is spring fed, with overflow going into nearby Root River, precluding stagnation and pollution. Probably not the conditions that will pertain with Thornton.

    I expect it is not something you were all burning to have cleared up. But an itch I needed to scratch.

    Tom Evans

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    1. I asked about that, and the quarry will be securely fenced. Remember, it's 300 feet deep, and the thing isn't going to be filled. So diving in would involve, say, a 200 foot plunge into water with no path to escape. It would be suicide.

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