Chicago mayoral candidate Garry McCarthy said this weekend that he would support the addition of a casino at O’Hare International Airport as it would generate new revenue for the cash-strapped city, while reducing the societal issues that can go along with the legalization of gambling.
The Chicago mayoral election is a year away but campaigns are already heating up, with candidates rolling out materials promoting their candidacy and challenging their opponents. According to political experts, next year’s race will be the most heated one in years, particularly given the fact that Mr. McCarthy, who was fired by incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel as police superintendent back in 2015, would participate. It is believed that the events surrounding his departure could come out during the election process.
In an interview for the At Issue program on local radio station WBBM(AM), Mr. McCarthy said that an airport casino could bring much-needed revenue to Chicago, while preventing issues related to expanded gambling.
The mayoral candidate elaborated that, to his knowledge, previous attempts for the legalization of casino gambling in Chicago failed due to concerns over the problems this could cause in the community. However, Mr. McCarthy believes that a casino at O’Hare would not affect the community. The venue would intended for passengers coming through, which would mean that anybody headed to the casino would have to go through TSA. According to Mr. McCarthy, societal issues threatening the integrity of the community will thus be eliminated, while new revenue for Chicago would be produced.
The construction of casino in Chicago has been proposed on multiple occasions over the years and by several city mayors, including Mayor Emanuel. The move first needs to be approved by the Illinois Legislature. However, several casino expansion proposals have been voted down over the past several legislative sessions. Some of these proposals have included the addition of slot machines at Chicago’s two airports – O’Hare and Midway.
Mr. McCarthy’s support for an O’Hare casino comes just as Chicago city officials approved an $8.5 billion expansion of the airport.
O’Hare International Airport is the third busiest airport in the United States. Last year, it handled nearly 80 million passengers.
It was announced last week that the Chicago City Council has approved a plan for the expansion of the airport that would include increased capacity, the addition of new technology and facilities that would “elevate the customer experience and significantly improve operational efficiencies.” The project would also involve expansion of the airport’s existing terminals, addition of new gates, and increasing the availability of some of the existing gates.
The $8.5-billion plan was on the cusp of being nixed as two of the airport’s two largest airlines – United and American – clashed over the number of gates each of them would be allocated. American, which handled 35.5% of all O’Hare passengers in 2016, accused United that it had sealed a deal with the city to secure more gates at the airport. United handled 44.5% of all passengers at the airport in 2016, according to Chicago City Council data.
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