The Pen

Chicago Pastors Appeal to Mayor on City Casino, Black and Brown Communities Must Benefit

Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a launch of “Our City, Our Safety,” a citywide initiative, at Ellis Park in Chicago on May 23, 2019. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

A group of pastors called on state leaders and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to slow down the push for a city casino, saying they want to make sure black and brown communities benefit from any deal that emerges from Springfield’s legislative session this week.

Several Chicago pastors spoke at a City Hall news conference Tuesday asking for the process to slow down, though they were careful to note that they don’t necessarily oppose a casino in principle. The Rev. Leon Finney, who is pastor at Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church on the South Side, said he doesn’t want a bill to pass without a community benefits analysis.

The group wants to know, “Where are we at this table? Where are we going to fit in?” the Rev. William Hall, pastor of St. James Community Church in the Chatham neighborhood, said.

The pastors spoke an hour before Lightfoot reiterated her own support for a Chicago casino during a speech at the City Club of Chicago, where she said, “No offense to Indiana, but it makes no sense that we allow Chicago and Illinois dollars to increase Indiana’s revenues.”

Asked afterward about the pastors’ concerns, Lightfoot said, “This is not a new issue” and said that Chicago’s economy is hurt by the city not having a casino. At the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, just across the border from Chicago, “every car coming into the lot is from Illinois,” Lightfoot said.

“We will absolutely work with the community in thinking about what that casino looks like, but the casino question itself has been litigated for 30-plus years,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot also said she doesn’t have a specific location in mind for the casino, and wouldn’t share it if she did to prevent land speculation.

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[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Gregory Pratt and Dan Petrella and originally published at the Chicago Tribune. Title changed by P&P.]