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Chicago mayor toyed with idea of city-only lottery

Dec 28, 2016, 11:49 am

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Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: Chicago mayor toyed with idea of city-only lotteryRating:

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has toyed with the concept of establishing a city lottery to help ease the city's financial woes and, while the idea has not progressed, it could get backing from at least one key Democrat in Springfield.

That's one of the better nuggets buried in the trove of private emails that Emanuel was forced to release just before Christmas under pressure from a Better Government Association lawsuit.

The May 5, 2015, email came from former Illinois Lottery Director Michael Jones, who suggested in a memo that a city lottery and related sports betting could pull in a whopping $550 million or more for a city facing huge legacy pension costs.

Jones sent the memo to Senate President John Cullerton, a longtime political ally, who in turn forwarded it to Emanuel. The mayor was interested enough that he sent it on to top aides including Deputy Mayor Steve Koch and Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool.

"A city of Chicago lottery could be producing significant revenue by fiscal year 2016," Jones wrote.

"Chicago generates over $1 billion a year in illegal sports betting, with profits going to illegal interests," he added. "This creates an opportunity to legalize, regulate and generate revenue from sports betting as a test, similar to the legalization of the numbers game in the late 1970s."

Koch's response to Emanuel's email at the time is blacked out. A city spokesman said officials were skeptical that the plan would have pulled in nearly that much and did not pursue it, but leaves future possibilities open.

Says the spokesman, "The mayor is always on the lookout for new ideas and creative solutions, and the decisions he's made over the past several years have shored up the city's finances.... Any idea that will increase revenue while holding the line on taxes has appeal, but this particular idea is not being pursued at this time."

A spokesman for Cullerton confirmed that, after checking with the city, no actual legislation authorizing a city lottery and sports betting was filed. Such a plan would have had to pass not only the Senate but a likely more hostile House, and then get the signature of Gov. Bruce Rauner.

But it looks like Cullerton remains willing to try. Added the spokesman, "It seemed like an interesting idea, and the Senate president tries to keep an open eye and open mind for new ideas that might help address the financial problems."

Jones, who I reached by phone, said he continues to think a city lottery, perhaps managed by a private company, "is a great way to raise revenue without taxes."

Jones said he sent the memo when, shortly after he stepped down as lottery chief, he was approached by European-based gambling companies interested in expanding operations in the United States. Jones said he was interested because, compared to the rest of the world, legal gambling here is focused on narrow market niches, especially wagering on terminals in stores, that are overly pitched to lower-income groups.

For instance, he told me, a lottery could be sold in restaurants, with customers paying via credit cards offered a chance to add $1 or $2 to purchase a lottery ticket.

A Chicago lottery even could expand business for the state lottery by getting more consumers interested in participating, he said. Right now, less than 10 percent of those who could play actually do so, in the process creating a huge underground market for illegal gambling.

"All of these ideas are worth exploring," Jones argued. "We're potentially appealing to a much larger group.... It's better public policy."

Right now, I wouldn't look for anything to happen. Emanuel has blown hot and cold on the idea of building a large casino in Chicago.

But if Springfield powers ever get together on a budget deal and don't want to raise taxes as much, who knows?

Rahm Emanuel Emails

Crain's Chicago Business, Lottery Post Staff

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11 comments. Last comment 5 years ago by MaximumMillions.
Page 1 of 1
Raven62's avatar - binary
New Jersey
United States
Member #17842
June 28, 2005
148619 Posts

Their solution to every problem is Raise Taxes!

A mind once stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions!

Catch-22: A dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions.

Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges: When the republic is at its most corrupt the laws are most numerous.

The best way to learn is to never stop being a student!

    United States
    Member #163182
    January 22, 2015
    2762 Posts

    Their solution to every problem is Raise Taxes!

    Don't think I've ever heard of a more stupid idea.  Suppose you did get a winner...think they'll pay?  lol

      music*'s avatar - DiscoBallGlowing
      Fresno, California
      United States
      Member #157849
      August 2, 2014
      3959 Posts

       Politicians use trial balloons to see if an idea will be accepted by the people. A President or Governor might "leak" something to the Press. US Flag

       "We are all in this together!" 


        United States
        Member #141028
        April 2, 2013
        1481 Posts

        What?Nuts .

        Seek and ye shall find -Matt. 7:7 ...Ask and ye shall receive -John 16:24 ...Give and it shall be given unto you -Luke 6:38 ...Be careful what you ask for!!! -Mypiemaster 1:1

        Having Money Solves Problems That Not Having Money Creates Yes Nod ****John Carlton****

          cbr$'s avatar - maren
          United States
          Member #104478
          January 15, 2011
          11420 Posts
          IL. don't want to raise taxes. A Chicago only base lottery. Reading
          the fine print on the letter it appear that this for sport bars betting.
          The tickets can only be purchase by cell phone. In the Chicago area
          only. They are going to have major problems with this.

            United States
            Member #176683
            August 20, 2016
            29 Posts

            Yeah I wouldn't buy any type of Lotto tickets in IL or Chicago!  If you ever won they'd likely say "Sorry, but we're too broke to pay you!"

              LiveInGreenBay's avatar - driver
              Green Bay
              United States
              Member #169383
              October 15, 2015
              2758 Posts

              Over 700 homicides in Chicago so far this year.  I think that mayor has his priorities screwed-up!

              Never give up.  Banana

                Artist77's avatar - batman14

                United States
                Member #121739
                January 16, 2012
                7816 Posts

                The winner would probably be shot either going to or coming from picking up his/her winings. The criminals would have target #1.

                His time is up.



                Job killing


                  United States
                  Member #37193
                  April 12, 2006
                  57 Posts

                  They never learn how to budget just tax & spend you don't spend what you don't have they need to go back to school

                    dpoly1's avatar - driver
                    United States
                    Member #66139
                    October 16, 2008
                    1998 Posts

                    What could go wrong in very crooked Chicago LOL


                    dpoly1 - Playing the lottery to save the jobs of those that build, transport, sell & maintain luxury items! -


                    Eschew Poverty ........... Vote Conservative!

                      Member #164595
                      March 8, 2015
                      803 Posts

                      They never learn how to budget just tax & spend you don't spend what you don't have they need to go back to school

                      This has simply not worked in the last 30 years. It's why infrastructure is in such poor state.