When Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that she had chosen the only North Side option for the city’s first casino, she annoyed many aldermen, especially those who had hoped for a different location. But it turns out that most Cook County residents agree with his choice.
Time will tell if the Lightfoot Casino pays off in terms of jobs and economic growth, but new public opinion polls suggest the casino has become something of a beacon of how residents perceive the area of Chicago more broadly.
To gauge what Chicago-area residents think of the proposed casino, The Harris Poll polled a cross-section of them about the project and the city. We found that support for the casino was strongly aligned with views of the Chicago area in general: supporters of the North Side casino complex tend to be significantly more optimistic about the city than opponents. .
Compared to fans, casino critics are twice as likely to describe the Chicago Metro as struggling (32% vs. 16%). Two-thirds of casino fans have a positive opinion of Greater Chicago and think it attracts new residents and businesses, while only 50% of critics say the same.
In this sense, how you see the casino depends on whether you see the glass of Chicago half full or half empty. If you’re a booster, the casino represents a new opportunity – and unsurprisingly, people who live in the city itself more often view the business favorably – and you may be more likely to care about the specific win: money paid to first responders. chronically underfunded pension plans. But if you’re skeptical, the idea of a new casino brings with it the evils of gambling: corruption, addiction and decadence.
Tellingly, both sides are moody about the south and west sides, with pluralities saying those parts of the city are disappearing. The majority of both groups described the North Side as “established,” raising questions about whether the expected economic development of the casino could have done more for Chicago had Lightfoot chosen one of the South Side locations on its list of finalists. But these could well be chicken-and-egg puzzles: would the casino provide the spark for a struggling neighborhood or would neighborhood decay undermine the new establishment?
In any case, the larger numbers suggest the mayor and her City Council allies did not hurt themselves politically in May by approving Bally’s plan to convert a 30-acre industrial site in River West into an entertainment complex. of 1.74 billion dollars which, in addition to a gaming hall with 3,400 slot machines, includes a 500-room hotel, a 3,000-seat theater, six restaurants, a park and a Riverwalk extension.
When told about the scale of the project, as well as the fact that it is expected to inject $200 million a year into Chicago police and fire department pensions, 54% of representative adults surveyed as part of online survey said they supported the casino, with 20% opposed and 26% neither for nor against.
Again, there are differences between demographic groups. Those who live in the city itself, for example, are more likely to support the project than those who live in suburban Cook County (56% to 51%). There is an even larger gap between men and women in favor of the casino (61% versus 48%). Support is less than 50% for adults with less than a high school education and reaches at least 60% for adults with household incomes of $100,000 and above.
Chicago definitely needs an economic boost, according to our survey. A plurality of area residents (34%) describe the city as being in decline. Many of these challenges are seen as occurring on the south and west sides, but perhaps worryingly, more than three-quarters of area residents believe downtown Chicago has become more dangerous over the past year.
Yet two-thirds say they enjoy spending time downtown. Will this share increase if area code 312 includes a casino? Bally’s has submitted a license application to the Illinois Gaming Board and also needs permission from the Chicago Plan Commission to proceed. If all goes as planned, the new resort won’t open until 2026.
But Bally plans to open a temporary casino in the Medina Temple in River North in 2023, so we should have a first idea of its impact.
How will all of this turn out? Place your bets.
Will Johnson is CEO of The Harris Poll, a global public opinion, market research and strategy firm.
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