Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer and Illinois State Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, share a goal for 2014: Bring a casino and all of its economic benefits to the city.
A bill to do just that stands a better chance of clearing the governor’s desk this year now that the General Assembly has passed its version of a solution to Illinois’ $100 billion pension shortfall. Gov. Pat Quinn said he would consider expanding gambling — the bill contains four other casinos as well as other additional gaming — only after the pension problem was fixed.
When the idea of a casino was first brought up years ago, this column was not a supporter. But things change — most significantly, the local economy — and with its hundreds of new jobs and significant forecast of additional tax revenue, a casino stands as one of the area’s best opportunities to boost that economy.
A casino would bring a surge of development, establish many new jobs and provide financial relief for the tight budgets of local governments. And all of that would be a welcome addition to the area.
The wheel of change, however, turns constantly. If Danville does land a casino and it proves to be successful, chances are good our Indiana neighbors will notice and want a slice of that economic pie themselves. We saw the very scenario play out with an off-track-betting parlor that once operated in Danville. Initial success soon was muted by competitors that sprang up in Illinois and Indiana, eventually forcing the local operation to close.
As long as local officials keep that surge-and-fade history in mind, the addition of a casino stands as a worthy goal. But if they put all of their financial hopes on the line with a casino, the bust could come much sooner than anyone expects.
Work hard to get this casino, but put the money to use for short-term gains. That would be a winning hand.