Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Says Casinos, Marijuana Critical to Rescuing Distressed City

Posted on: December 12, 2018, 10:31h. 

Last updated on: December 13, 2018, 06:02h.

Outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) is calling on the Illinois General Assembly to legalize recreational marijuana and allow casinos to be placed in America’s third largest city.

Chicago casino Rahm Emanuel Illinois
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says legalizing casinos and recreational marijuana would help boost the city’s finances. (Image: Daniel Boczarski/Getty)

Emanuel, who has decided not to seek a third term, says his successor will face a financially crippling public pension crisis when he or she takes office in May of next year. Gambling and marijuana could help, the mayor says.

Chicago’s four public worker pension funds have more than $27 billion in unfunded liabilities. If the city continues to collect the same amount of tax revenue, those numbers will only continue to balloon.

The controversial mayor is requesting that City Council issue as much as $10 billion in pension obligation bonds to provide the retirement funds with immediate capital.

There are already 21 candidates who have announced campaigns for the Chicago mayoral election, which will be held February 26. The odds are strong the winner will be a Democrat. The last Republican to hold the office was William Hale Thompson in the 1920s.

Casino, Weed Revenue

Along with borrowing, Emanuel says it’s time for the state to allow Chicago to host casinos. The mayor opined that the subsequent gaming tax revenue would lessen the burden on city taxpayers to cover escalating pension costs.

“I believe recreational marijuana has social costs that must be considered. And like a casino, revenue would take time to be realized,” the mayor said Wednesday.

“But if the state goes down that path, those resources can and should be used to further solidify our pensions without asking more of Chicago taxpayers. If we take all of these steps — from a consideration model to amending the constitution to issuing bonds to a casino to recreational marijuana, we will dramatically reduce what is asked of our taxpayers,” Emanuel declared.

Illinois is presently home to 10 riverboat casinos, but gambling remains banned in Chicago.

In May, a bill that would have authorized as many as six casinos in the Chicago area, as well as slot machines at O’Hare and Midway airports, was defeated. At the time, Emanuel supported the rejection, as the legislation directed most of the tax money to the state.

Deadly Proposition

Chicago’s growing police force working to slow the city’s violent murder rate will only lead to higher pension obligations in the years ahead. USA TODAY reports that Chicago will need an additional $276 million in 2020 to pay for increasing police and fire pension contributions, and an additional $310 million by 2022.

Chicago was home to 674 homicides last year, and that’s actually a 15 percent decline from the 795 murders occurred the year earlier.

Critics to casinos often cite alleged associated crime that comes with the venues, but in Chicago, the mayor feels the gaming floors might actually provide a lifeline to the Second City.