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By Steve Norton
CEO, Norton Management

Put the Casino on the East Side

My comment:

My location message is to place the destination casino resort, where it will produce the most revenues, taxes, and jobs. Putting the casino in Southeast Chicago, to redevelop an environmentally damaged industrial property or to low-income neighborhoods to provide jobs, both miss the point of providing a major attraction for Chicago's visitor population: conventions and trade shows.

These will immediately attract more attendees and exhibitors, because of the existence of a destination casino, plus new shows will add Chicago to Las Vegas and Orlando as their favorite destinations. Plus, with its 100 thousand hotel rooms, a casino in downtown Chicago, will derive most of their gaming revenues from convention attendees, business travelers and weekend tourists, not the resident population, like the Illinois riverboat casinos do.

New Jersey required that all employees be residents of the state, with the exception of the casino executives and supervisory personnel of the first casino - my employer, Resorts International. And New Jersey provided daily bus transportation to all South Jersey counties, that had lost much employment from Glass Factory closings.

Casino employee bus ridership reached 20,000 per day in the 1980s. Chicago could do the same from selective communities and require a minimum percentage of employees be from specific parts of the city.

Issues in placing Chicago's casino in a low-income neighborhood means far fewer vacationers, conventioneers and traveling businessmen visiting the casino. Plus, it greatly increases the problem of compulsive gambling in communities that are better off without a convenient casino. Illinois probably has higher per capita spending already at its state lottery. In fact, Illinois was the state, where lottery billboards, in certain Chicago neighborhoods, promoted the message "Your Ticket Out". Out of what? Poverty? Unemployment? Poor education? Inferior housing?

A downtown casino, near the Convention Center and most of Chicago's hotel inventory, would most likely produce a majority of casino revenue from non-residents, yet all of the jobs could be held by Illinois residents.