When locations are chosen for major city landmarks like a new stadium or casino, it is usually government officials and consultants that make the decisions. As the process starts to decide where Chicago’s first casino is going to be built, consultants and politicians are certainly going to make most of the decisions and have the final say, but Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot promised to give Chicagoans a say in the matter. On Friday, she took the first step in doing just that, posting an online survey seeking citizen input on where they think the future gambling venue should be.
Survey speaks in generalities
Now, the survey, aside from maybe one open-ended catch-all question, is not asking people for specific location suggestions. It isn’t asking respondents to say exactly where the casino should go. Instead, it speaks more in generalities, the types of locations people would like or not like and what concerns they have about possible spots.
For instance, for the question, “Where is the ideal location for the casino in Chicago?” the survey doesn’t ask people to select from Main and 1st or 38th Street and Central Avenue (I’m just making these intersections up). Instead, it asks people to choose up to three options from over a dozen possibilities such as “near other entertainment venues,” “near the Indiana border,” or “far from downtown.”
The next question, “What factors are most important in selecting a site for a potential casino?” has six options, from which respondents can select three. “Maximizes tax benefits,” “minimizes disruption to local culture,” and “easily accessible by car” are some examples.
Several questions, like the two above also have an “other” selection that allows people to add whatever they would like.
The survey is open to anyone in the United States, though obviously people who live in and around Chicago would be the most likely to fill it out, as well as the ones the Mayor and City Hall would prefer to have respond. There is a drop-down list that asks for a person’s zip code, but again, there is an “other” selection, so if you live in Anchorage, go for it if you would like. The only other piece of information requested that is remotely personal is age; the survey is anonymous.
In a press release, Mayor Lightfoot said of the public survey, “While the prospect of a new casino holds tremendous potential for generating new revenues and stimulating economic opportunity for Chicago, we are committed to a transparent process for ensuring all voices can be heard as the City moves forward on this historic project.”
Casino to show Chicago the money
The casino was approved as part of a massive gambling expansion included in the $45 billion capital plan signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker in late June. Five other casinos were also approved. Chicago’s will clearly be the big daddy and it comes with a hefty price tag. Whoever develops the casino will have to pay a $30 million licensing fee plus $30,000 per “gaming position,” which is essentially a gambling machine or table. The Chicago casino is authorized to have 4,000 gaming positions, so that’s potentially $120 million in addition to the licensing fee.