Some South Side residents said Thursday that if a casino is built in one of their neighborhoods, low-income residents could be hit the hardest.
In the second public conversation about the potential impact of a proposed Chicago casino, the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC) convened residents at the King Branch Library in the Bronzeville neighborhood. The first meeting was held in Chinatown on Oct. 30.
Rev. Charlene Hill of the United Church of Hyde Park, one of the panelists at Thursday’s event, said she does not want a casino nearby.
“It’s already shown, statistically, that more poor people spend money in casinos,” Hill said. “So we’re spending money in casinos. That money is going out to the state, or the city, or whatever, and it doesn’t benefit us.”
Fellow panelist Harold Lucas, president of the Black Metropolis Convention & Tourism Council and a lifelong Bronzeville resident, welcomed a casino in the area. He proposed that it be built in the old Washington Park National Bank building in the Woodlawn community. Lucas said a casino in Woodlawn would “ignite economic empowerment and wealth creation among African Americans” on the South Side.
But Bronzeville resident Ronald Muhammad disagreed.
“I don’t see any advantage to the community for a casino,” he said. “I see people making tons of money off people who can’t afford to use that type of recreation.”
Muhammad and others said that if a casino is to be built on the South Side, a portion of the jobs created should go to community members, and tax revenue generated from the casino should be invested in the neighborhood.
Illinois State Rep. Kam Buckner (D-Chicago) attended Thursday’s conversation. Earlier this year, Buckner voted for the Illinois gambling expansion bill that paves the way for a casino in Chicago and five other Illinois cities,
“When I voted for the casino bill in Springfield, I was excited because I thought it was an opportunity to have some economic development in neighborhoods in Chicago that have been disinvested in for a long time,” Buckner said after the event. “What I’ve heard since then from constituents is that … people are really scared that there’s not a big enough community [engagement] process.”
Buckner added, “I think there are a lot of people who are still very excited about the casino, but they want to make sure that it goes into the right place, and they want to make sure there are community benefits and neighborhood protections involved.”
Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.