Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dolton casino would be winner for Shaws

The Shaws have been a frequent topic of discussion over time. These two brothers from Arkansas have a rather colorful history. They were players in Chicago until they moved with other blacks to the south suburbs.

One became Mayor of Dolton while holding a seat in the Illinois state senate (a seat he would lose to Rev. James Meeks). The other held a seat on the Cook County Board of Review (he would lose that to an ally of Jesse Jackson Jr.). They've attempted to find a Jesse Jackson to run against Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. It can get colorful.

So where am I going with this? Well Carol Marin talks about how a casino in the mostly stable middle class suburb of Dolton, Illinois could be of benefit to the Shaws. So let's take a look, shall we...

As Illinois legislators work this week to pass a gigantic new gambling -- sorry -- gaming bill, I am gripped by a fearful vision. I imagine that despotic duo, the Shaw brothers, gleefully cutting the ribbon on a new Dolton casino -- a civic nightmare that could actually become reality. The proposed legislation provides for four new casino licenses, one of which would be for the south suburbs, specifically designated to be within "eight miles from the Indiana border." Again, I am haunted by the specter of the Shaws, two-armed bandits, overseeing the one-armed variety.
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I've never had any luck dialing the Village of Dolton. Mayor Bill Shaw, 70, is never in. Nor is his twin brother, Bob. Bob Shaw is the inspector general of Dolton, appointed by Bill to a $70,000-a-year corruption-busting post. Bob's mandate: to fearlessly investigate wrongdoing anywhere he finds it, with two notable exceptions: the executive and legislative branches of village government, where he and Bill get their paychecks, village cars and expense accounts.

The only thing about the Shaws to be grateful for, I suppose, is that their mother had twins, not triplets. These two have wreaked enough havoc on the notion of good government in 50 years of elective and appointed office.

That includes a civil racketeering suit against the village, convicted felons getting honorary police badges, and the testimony of a convicted drug smuggler in federal court saying he paid Mayor Shaw $30,000 to join the force.

In recent years, voters have gotten restless. Bob was deposed as alderman of Chicago's 9th Ward, dumped as a commissioner of the Cook County Board of Review (but not before voting to reduce his brother's property taxes), and defeated in a run for mayor of South Holland. Bill, meanwhile, only narrowly won a third term as Dolton mayor a couple of years ago after being clobbered by state Sen. James Meeks, who ejected him from his legislative seat in 2002.
So she wonders why we should care if the Shaws get their hands on the cash windfall of a south suburban casino on the Little Calumet River. Well think of it this way, we're still in Illinois...

And the Shaws still have powerful friends in high places, not the least of whom is Senate President Emil Jones, an ardent fan of gaming, a 30-year friend of the twins, and a ferocious supporter of a south suburban casino location.

There is plenty of concern down in Springfield that the Brothers Shaw might be holding a fistful of aces on this deal.

Meeks, no fan of gambling and no friend of Bill and Bob, said he put the question of a Dolton casino directly to the Senate president. Meeks, by phone Tuesday, said that Jones told him, "This would not be a Dolton boat." Was that assurance enough for Meeks that a riverboat is not going to Dolton? "I am not convinced it's not," was the senator's grim response.

He's not alone. That's why it's more important than ever that Illinois thoroughly investigate any and all bidders, businesses and potential casino locations before handing anybody one of these four licenses.

The job of that investigation falls to the Illinois Gaming Board. But guess what? While the casino license bill has been put on a faster track down in Springfield, a separate, urgent piece of gaming reform legislation has been deader than a doornail. That's the bill that would make the Illinois Gaming Board independent of state government, which it currently is not, and would beef up its budget and staff. In recent years, the number of its investigators dropped from 15 to nine.

Today, its staff is too tiny, its budget too small, and its ability to be independent too shackled by the state bureaucracy that willfully impedes its work. In the pay-to-play universe of Illinois politics, that's frightening.

If we don't want a casino in Dolton, and trust me, we don't, then lawmakers better make sure the Illinois Gaming Board gets what it needs. If it doesn't, then lawmakers should cash in this big casino bill and give up the game.
Hmmm I wonder how Nevada's or New Jersey's gaming oversight operates. I hope their indenpendent because if we're trying to use gambling for more governmental revenues then we need to take a page out of their books.

Related Posts
Shaw twins robbing Dolton taxpayers
South Suburban politics...

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