CHICAGO-While Mayor Richard M. Daley says “the time is right” for his cash-strapped city to open its own casino, its location quickly becomes a mega-million-dollar question. While ruling out the airports, Northerly Island and residential neighborhoods, the two aldermen at Daley’s press conference Monday were William Beavers of the 7th Ward on the South Side and Isaac Carothers of the 29th Ward, which includes the Austin neighborhood on the West Side.

Balancing the city’s budget now and pay for needed infrastructure improvements are major reasons behind Daley’s bid for a casino, which would be owned by the city and managed by an outside company. “The reality is: We must find new sources of revenue,” Daley says.

City officials estimate a Chicago casino could draw up to 7.5 million visitors a year and generate $1 billion in city and state revenue.

Daley comes to the table as the state’s 10th casino license remains in limbo despite a $518-billion bid to relocate it to northwest suburban Rosemont. However, the idea of creating at least two new licenses, which could become active before the 10th license is settled, already is being floated in Springfield.

Daley is asking the legislature to include a land-based casino in Chicago in discussions on additional licenses.

The city expects to receive about $300 million a year from a casino, and Daley suggests the money could be used to launch a second “Neighborhoods Alive 21″ program. The first go-round is building new libraries, police and fire stations.

In addition to providing needed revenue, Daley says a casino is needed to keep Chicago a leader in the convention and tourism industry.

Gamblers can roll the dice at casinos in Aurora, Elgin and Joliet, as well as across the state line in East Chicago, IN and Gary, IN, all within 40 miles of the Loop.

“We are not opening the door to gaming in the Chicago area,” Daley says. “That door was opened long ago. The rest of Illinois already has gaming. Why shouldn’t Chicago?”

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