A coalition of mayors from mostly African American south suburbs are calling on Gov. J.B. Pritzker to reconsider a key portion of the state’s new gambling law, which they say gives the house edge to owners of a combination horse racetrack-casino over majority-black towns vying for a separate casino license nearby.
Not only would the two new full-blown gambling dens compete with one another for customers in a saturated suburban market, but the law also potentially allows the racino owners to block a traditional casino from setting up shop in the first place. That “11th hour” provision to the gaming bill only benefits “a wealthy, white track owner,” according to Matteson Village President Sheila Chalmers-Currin.
”While this proposed law appears to allow two casinos (one with a track), in fact, we all know that this will never happen, and the favored track owner will have the only gaming property in South Cook County,” Chalmers-Currin wrote in a June 11 letter to Pritzker publicly released Wednesday. “I speak for the many minorities that suspect this is all a ruse and special legislation to benefit the private racino operator to the disadvantage of the African American community and its leaders.” […]
The bill also authorized another casino located in one of the following townships: Bloom, Bremen, Calumet, Rich, Thornton or Worth.
One hangup: that casino can’t be located within 35 miles of the track — effectively ruling out any of those townships — unless the track operator “has given written consent” for the casino to open there, the law says.
*** UPDATE 1 *** I just searched the statute and the only mention of a 35-mile limit I can find applies to the distance between racetracks/racinos, not casinos…
(230 ILCS 5/) Illinois Horse Racing Act of 1975. […]
(230 ILCS 5/19.5)
Sec. 19.5. Standardbred racetrack in Cook County.
Notwithstanding anything in this Act to the contrary, in addition to organization licenses issued by the [Illinois Racing Board] on the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 101st General Assembly, the Board shall issue an organization license limited to standardbred racing to a racetrack located in one of the following townships of Cook County: Bloom, Bremen, Calumet, Orland, Rich, Thornton, or Worth. This additional organization license shall not be issued within a 35-mile radius of another organization license issued by the Board on the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 101st General Assembly, unless the person having operating control of such racetrack has given written consent to the organization licensee applicant
*** UPDATE 2 *** The CS-T walks it back…
Horse-racing advocates on Thursday shot down the incorrect claim of a south suburban mayor who said owners of a soon-to-be-licensed racino can block a standalone casino from breaking ground nearby.
But Matteson Village President Sheila Chalmers-Currin says there are still flaws in the expansion, which, as written, gives substantial leeway to one of the state’s most powerful horse-racing families. […]
The Matteson mayor acknowledged the misreading, saying she and other south suburban leaders have since “gotten some clarification on that” from state Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, an architect of the casino expansion.