Illinois casino veto good news for NWI
BY Teresa Auch Schultz email@example.com August 28, 2012 4:30PM
Updated: September 30, 2012 6:17AM
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of five new casinos for his state is Northwest Indiana’s gain, according to one expert.
“Indiana certainly dodged a bullet on its western border,” Ed Feigenbaum, editor of Indiana Gaming Insight, said.
Quinn’s veto on Tuesday killed state legislation that would have brought a casino to Chicago and four other areas in Illinois, including the southeast suburbs. Quinn cited concerns that the bill didn’t have enough regulations, such as ones preventing the casinos from donating to campaign funds.
Many officials in Northwest Indiana had expressed concern that a casino in Chicago, in addition to the Rivers Casino that opened in Des Plaines, Ill., a little over a year ago, would force the closure of at least one of the five casinos in the area. That in turn would hurt local governments, as they receive property taxes and revenue-sharing money from the casinos.
Matt Schuffer, senior vice president and general manager at Ameristar in East Chicago, said the casino had and would continue to pay attention to the possibility of casino expansions in Illinois.
“Whether the bill passed or not, we remain and continue to remain committed to growing our business in accordance with our core value of continous improvement,” Schuffert said.
This is the second year in a row that Illinois has tried — and failed — to create legislation allowing new casinos. Feigenbaum said the news allows Northwest Indiana’s casinos to focus on shoring up their business for the long term.
Feigenbaum said the news is especially good for Horseshoe, Ameristar and Majestic Star, because they would likely lose the most business. Horseshoe has previously reported about 90 percent of its business comes from Illinois.
That doesn’t mean the region’s casinos are out of the woods yet, though. Quinn has said he is still willing to consider casinos but with more regulations. Feigenbaum said that he expects Illinois casino supporters to make another push. Illinois State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, said Tuesday he would try for a vote this fall to override Quinn’s veto, although other politicians in Illinois said they did not expect there would be enough votes.
Feigenbaum said a successful bid will likely be scaled down from the current proposal and thus might not have such a large effect on the casinos in Lake and LaPorte counties.
“Nobody knows what’s right for Illinois and what will be the appropriate package,” he said.
Feigenbaum said a casino in Chicago’s Loop would likely harm Northwest Indiana much less than one in the south suburbs of the city. A downtown casino most likely would market itself primarily toward tourists and convention goers, whereas local residents probably would prefer the convenience of the suburban casinos to having to drive and park in downtown Chicago, he said.
“Illinois is so unpredictable, which is quite an advantage for Indiana,” Feigenbaum said.
Sun-Times Media contributed to this report.