by Melanie Jongsma and Josh Bootsma
LANSING, Ill. (November 5, 2019) – Lansing Mayor Patty Eidam read a five-page prepared statement at the October 15 Village Board meeting in favor of Resolution #1139: “supporting the granting of a gaming license to operate a gaming facility in the City of Calumet City.” The resolution passed with one dissenting vote.
Village Administrator Dan Podgorski introduced the resolution by explaining that Calumet City had informed Lansing of its intent to apply for a casino license. “Recognizing that the casino—if they should receive it—will have an impact on traffic and other services to Lansing,” said Podgorski, “they pledged to include us in their intergovernmental revenue sharing agreement if they’re awarded such a license. And we discussed here the need to preserve our ability to share in any potential revenues, feeling that it may be in our best interest to support Calumet City’s efforts to obtain that license….”
Revenue sharing already stipulated
Governor Pritzker’s Gaming Expansion Law already includes a provision stipulating that surrounding communities will receive 3% of adjusted gross revenue from the host community. The provision reads (beginning on page 706):
“An amount equal to 5% of the adjusted gross receipts generated by a riverboat…shall be remitted monthly, subject to appropriation, as follows: 2% to the unit of local government in which the riverboat or casino is located, and 3% shall be distributed: (A) in accordance with a regional capital development plan entered into by the following communities: Village of Beecher, City of Blue Island, Village of Burnham, City of Calumet City, Village of Calumet Park, City of Chicago Heights, City of Country Club Hills, Village of Crestwood, Village of Crete, Village of Dixmoor, Village of Dolton, Village of East Hazel Crest, Village of Flossmoor, Village of Ford Heights, Village of Glenwood, City of Harvey, Village of Hazel Crest, Village of Homewood, Village of Lansing, Village of Lynwood, City of Markham, Village of Matteson, Village of Midlothian, Village of Monee, City of Oak Forest, Village of Olympia Fields, Village of Orland Hills, Village of Orland Park, City of Palos Heights, Village of Park Forest, Village of Phoenix, Village of Posen, Village of Richton Park, Village of Riverdale, Village of Robbins, Village of Sauk Village, Village of South Chicago Heights, Village of South Holland, Village of Steger, Village of Thornton, Village of Tinley Park, Village of University Park and Village of Worth; or (B) if no regional capital development plan exists, equally among the communities listed in item (A) to be used for capital expenditures or public pension payments, or both.”
Lynwood and Homewood are also applying for a casino license, and they did not request a letter of support from Lansing.
The letter of support had been discussed during the October 1 Committee of the Whole meeting, and at that time Trustee Jerry Zeldenrust voiced his discomfort with supporting gambling. As reported in an October 6 article, Zeldenrust explained to his fellow Board members, “I have a hard time signing off on a letter that allows us to benefit from what I know is going to negatively impact the town that gets this casino.”
Statement from the Mayor
In her statement, Mayor Eidam referenced a 1999 report prepared by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC), the same report that Zeldenrust referenced in his October 6 comments. “Gambling advocates and those against gambling immediately began selectively choosing the aspects of the report that seemed to best suit their positions,” said Eidam, describing the country’s response when the report was first released.
Eidam also referenced a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report released in 2000 that reviewed the NGISC’s findings. She listed a handful of economic benefits associated with casinos listed in the report, including employment, tax, and infrastructure benefits. She also referenced areas in the report that state how difficult the social effects of gambling and casinos are to measure.
Eidam made a point of repeating the first sentence of the NGISC report’s first chapter, which reads: “Today the vast majority of Americans either gamble recreationally and experience no measurable side effects related to their gambling, or they choose not to gamble at all.” She did not read the second sentence, which says, “Regrettably, some of them gamble in ways that harm themselves, their families, and their communities.”
Before sharing her opinion on the issue, Eidam declared, “This, ladies and gentlemen, is not a moral issue, it is about economics and facts.”
Eidam thanked citizens for the emails she had received regarding the letter of support: “I respect the six people that emailed me on this topic. I thanked them for taking the time to write to me. None of the email messages were more than two sentences, and they all revolved around someone else’s opinion.”
She concluded her comments by saying, “We should be careful and avoid compromising any possibility of revenue sharing should Calumet City be successful in their bid for the casino license. If I was voting on Resolution 1139, I would vote yes!” (A mayor typically does not participate in Board votes except to break a tie.)
A PDF of Mayor Eidam’s complete statement is available here.
Statements from the Board
Trustee Mike Fish also read a prepared statement in which he thanked the people who had contacted him about the casino issue, and expressed support for Cal City’s casino bid because of the economic benefits. “If a Calumet City facility can keep millions of casino revenue within our state,” said Fish, “that means additional tax revenue for our state.” A PDF of Trustee Fish’s complete statement is available here.
Trustee Mike Manno also voiced support. “Whether we agree or not, if Calumet City gets it, we could all vote no on it tonight, they’re still gonna get it,” he said. “If they get it, it does us no good at all because we all voted no. So I think to be a good neighbor and to help them out…, I will be for it.”
Trustee Brian Hardy thanked all the Lansing residents and fellow Trustees who expressed their opinions via email, phone calls, and conversations. “I want the Village of Lansing and its residents to know that we have done our homework diligently on this matter,” he said.
Trustee Jerry Zeldenrust expressed his appreciation to his fellow Board members for their willingness to discuss the matter and exchange views. In closing, he shared a piece of information he had found while doing his own research of the issue. “Back in 2004, Lynwood was goin’ for a casino, and the Village of Lansing drafted a resolution against the proposed casino,” he shared. “One of the paragraphs of that Board and that Mayor stated…, ‘The Village Board of Lansing on numerous occasions received information, literature, and verbal input from citizens who were opposed to the casino facility currently under consideration in Lynwood—(this was 2004)—and this information supports the belief that casinos have negative effects upon the communities in which they’re located and their surrounding communities, and that there is evidence gambling leads to increases in divorce, financial hardships, addictions, crime rates, and may have a negative impact on the local economy.’ That’s what the Board wanted to put in part of their several-page proposal at that time, and I support that idea, I support those findings, and that’s why I can’t support this letter.”
Lansing’s Mayor in 2004 was Dan Podgorski.
Village Administrator Dan Podgorski then called for a motion on Resolution #1139, supporting Calumet City’s application for a gaming license. Trustee Manno so moved, and Trustee Fish seconded. With no further questions or discussion, Village Clerk Vivian Payne called the roll:
- Trustee Mike Manno – Aye
- Trustee Mike Fish – Aye
- Trustee Saad Abbasy – Aye
- Trustee Brian Hardy – Aye
- Trustee Grady-Perovich – Aye
- Trustee Zeldenrust – Nay
A PDF of Resolution #1139 is available here.
- What you need to know about Illinois gambling expansion (a June 2019 Q and A by the Illinois Policy Institute)
- Gaming expansion: Illinois bets big (a July 2019 article by Chicago attorneys Peterson Johnson Murray)
- Trustee Zeldenrust asks Board to consider effects of gambling on community (October 6 article)
- Dozens of questions asked at Homewood Public Hearing for proposed casino (October 11 article)