Chicago’s Proposed Casino Hits Snag: Not Enough ‘Profit’ for Private Investors
A study commissioned by the City of Chicago on where to build the city’s first land-based gambling casino says that none of the five proposed locations are “financially feasible” due to high taxes and fees built into the legislation authorizing the casino. That law was passed earlier this year by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by the new Governor J.B. Pritzker.
The most objectionable provisions of the law, according to the study, are as follows:
- There’s an upfront, nonrefundable $250,000 application fee;
- There’s a 33 percent “privilege” tax;
- How about a $15 million “reconciliation” fee when the license is issued; and
- Up to a whopping $120 million in gambling position fees may be imposed.
Because of these “anti-business” high tax and fee numbers, the study’s bottom line is this: None of the five proposed sites would yield a private investor much more than a two percent profit. And, that kind of profit margin is simply unacceptable for any rational capitalist in this perhaps most capitalistic city of this most capitalistic nation-state.
After all, from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman, the real point of every endeavor known to man is never to benefit mankind as a whole, but rather to benefit the man who is bold enough (and rich enough) to take the risk of “investing” in something that (only as a side effect) will, or might, or could “benefit” everybody. The point of capitalism, and the capitalists vying for control of Chicago’s gambling business, therefore, is not, never has been, and never will be to help people generally, but to enrich one’s own individual, personal and “private” life at the expense of the whole people, the natural environment, hell, the entire planet, if “necessary.”
Again, the study looked at five possible sites for a casino — all of which were suggested by the mayor, and are located in Chicago’s economically stressed black neighborhoods on the West and South Sides of the city.
The downtown area of Chicago (the famed “Loop”) was deliberately left out of loop. That’s because since its founding, Chicago’s “Loop” and the white-dominated near-north and north sides adjacent to it have always been the preferred sites, which consequently have always disproportionately benefited from any and all major economic development projects and policies putatively meant for the whole city’s “benefit.”
This is a perfect example of Ronald Reagan’s and Margaret Thatcher’s failed “supply side,” “trickle-down” economics theory of the 1980s and the insufferable neoliberal nostrum and nonsense since then that insists, with a straight face, and with all economic indices proving otherwise, that, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
And whenever proponents of this madness are asked about the millions — in some places, the majority — of folk who have no boats at all, or whose already rickety boats have been severely damaged by members of the yacht club to the point of foundering, they have no answer, and certainly no spare life boat or even life preserver to offer.
On the contrary, however, the blacker, browner and poorer South and West Sides of Chicago have gone wanting in both development by private industry and in city services — services which are supposedly provided equally throughout the city.
Historically, mayor after mayor after governor after governor have simply ignored the needs of Chicago’s black and brown citizens. Our concerns and problems are, more often than not, met with an increased police presence to the point that certain sections of Chicago look like occupied territory. This is the main reason that at least since the 1968 riot immediately following Dr. King’s assassination, Chicago’s South and West Sides continue to look like bombed-out war zones. The city has flatly refused to substantially help redevelop those areas, but! does not hesitate for even a moment to use black and brown tax dollars to “develop,” maintain, repair and rebuild the city’s white neighborhoods.
We are still hopeful that this new mayor will be different. In fact, that is one of the main reasons she is mayor in the first place. As noted, however, Mayor Lightfoot appears inclined to agree with the study: “I think they listened, but I think that they had to be shown what we were saying and I think that the truth is abundantly clear now,” Lightfoot said.
Thus, the games may already be fixed before the casino is even built. Indeed, the gaming bill’s principal sponsor, State Senator Terry Link, has proposed yet another feasibility study, which this time would purposely highlight the known profit-making possibilities of other areas: read, downtown and the North side.
For his part, the Governor says that he will cooperate with everyone involved in order to get the thing built. He made no comment on the study, per se, or its findings. But his generalized comments do not bode well for the black and brown people of Chicago:
“I’m very confident we’ll get there,” Pritzker said. “I think everyone has the right mindset about it and all of us want the city and the state as well as the jobs that will come with the casino. We all want it to succeed,” sayeth the Governor.
The Illinois Gaming Board will now take the next 90 days to make further recommendations.
The solution to the problem of reluctant private financiers and private profiteers and private investors seems simple enough: Let the governor and the mayor enter into a state-city partnership, build and run the damn thing for the benefit of the people of Illinois and the city of Chicago. Why must there always be a tiny minority of usually white men who simply must make a profit at the public’s expense?
Finally, I categorically disagree with this study. It is actually rather obvious to even the casual observer that a land-based, Las Vegas-style Chicago casino will be an instant and long term cash cow for the city of Chicago no matter where it is built within the city. Such a casino will likely put all other surrounding casinos, whether on land or water, in the suburbs, or those casinos just across the borders of the neighboring states of Wisconsin and Indiana, out of business.
But if built on the black side of town, it will make Chicago at least begin to really look and even feel like one city instead of the two or three as it does now: the rich and white Chicago; the black/brown and poor Chicago, and the ugly Chicago no-man’s land.