As Illinois legislators consider lowering tax rates to make a Chicago casino financially viable, a Chinatown group convened experts and residents on Wednesday to discuss how a casino would affect its community.
The Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC) held the gathering at the Chinatown branch of the Chicago Public Library. It’s the group’s first of two public conversations about the potential impact of a casino.
During Wednesday’s meeting, a panel that included an urban planner, an entrepreneur and a gambling addiction expert discussed the benefits and drawbacks of a casino. Afterwards, community members talked in small groups about recommendations they would make to decision-makers.
CBCAC founder C.W. Chan said there are higher rates of gambling addiction in Chinese communities, especially among lower-income residents “who can least afford the consequences of gambling.”
“We understand that the state needs that money; the state had to make a decision,” Chan said. “We’re not trying to stop the casino, but we’re trying to [discuss] how it’s going to impact our community.”
He added that, 20 years ago, a group of nearby casinos “targeted Chinatown with the buses at every single corner, seven days a week, almost 24 hours a day.”
Chan said businesses lost customers and employees, and many families ran into financial problems. He also said there was an uptick in crime, with robberies happening at the bus stops where casinos dropped off patrons.
Anita Pindiur, executive director of the Way Back Inn, an addiction treatment center, cited studies showing that for every dollar in revenue generated by a casino, three dollars are spent addressing the consequences that result from gambling disorders.
“We do see health consequences. We do see workplace consequences. We do see suicide as one of the largest components of gambling disorders,” Pindiur said.
Karen Eng, managing director of Diversity Gaming Solutions, a group seeking to increase diversity in the gaming industry, focused on the jobs that a proposed casino would bring.
“In the state of Illinois, there’s going to be 10,000 new jobs that are going to need to be filled,” Eng said. “We want all the workforce development to happen in the state.”
But during the breakout discussions, community members raised concerns that a casino in the city would cause more problems than it would solve.
“Since it seems that [a casino] is inevitable, so I think the main concern for me is … the social impact on families,” said Victoria Ng, a community member who attended the discussion. She added that the issue hits home for her, as some of her family members have struggled with gambling.
Community members suggested that the city provide more free activities and recreational spaces for residents, and that the state make gambling addiction treatment and education more accessible to those who need it.
The next discussion, which will focus on the casino’s impact on the South Side, will be held November 7th at the King Branch of the Chicago Public Library.