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Put Chicago casino at the Thompson Center, business leader suggests

Updated: October 9, 2011 7:12AM



If Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel can ever solve their public feud over casino gambling, a business leader has an idea about where Chicago should locate its land-based casino: the James R. Thompson Center.

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper said Tuesday the 26-year-old headquarters for state government — which occupies a full-city block at Clark and Randolph — would be perfect for a casino.

“It’s a burden to the state and it could make a great casino on the first floor and the lower level and hotel rooms surrounding it” on the upper floors, said Roper, who touted Block 37 for a casino before the under-whelming development opened there.

“If you take a look at the casino that is in Montreal, you’ll see that it’s the old French Pavilion. Turned upside-down, it looks just like the State of Illinois building. We showed it to the governor and he made a note of a re-purposed use of state property. Think about that building. As old as it is, it’s going to have to have a major renovation. Maybe you’re better off just allowing somebody else to renovate it.”

Converting the Thompson Center into a casino would require the state to empty out government employees. Even so, Quinn did not automatically shoot down the idea.

Instead, he changed the subject.

“Jerry’s a good man. I like him. But we have a lot of things to do before we get to that point,” the governor said.

“We’ve got to make sure the law is right — that there’s integrity at all times, that the state of Illinois gets its fair share of any gaming revenue. I’m particularly concerned about our school assistance fund. Some provisions were put into the bill that were not good for that fund and would shortchange children in Illinois. That all has to be straightened out.”

Pressed further about the Thompson Center, Quinn said site selection was “not my purview.

“The Gaming Board is really the best and the most experienced and the most expert entity to oversee locations as well as who’s operating gambling casinos in Illinois,” he said.



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