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A Casino For Block 37 Mall?

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Block 37

The interior of the Block 37 mall. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Some Chicago business leaders say they would like to see a new land-based casino in the half-vacant Block 37 mall downtown.

Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer Jerry Roper says he thinks the mall would be the perfect spot for a casino.

He thinks it could bring thousands of jobs to the area.

A bill in Springfield to expand gaming calls for a casino in Chicago, and it already passed the Illinois State Senate. But the bill has yet to pass the state House and receive Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature.

Chicago mayoral candidate Gery Chico favors a casino for Chicago, but is not keen on bringing gambling to the core of downtown. However, he did say he is open to discussing the Block 37 site.

“I think those discussions have to be had on a rational basis,” he said. “We shouldn’t rush to judgment on any particular site. We don’t want to squander this opportunity.”

Chico said a city casino would mean about $250 million in revenue a year.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Craig Dellimore Reports

Block 37 has fallen on hard times lately. A judge issued a foreclosure order against mall owner and developer Joseph Freed & Associates last month, and found the firm liable for $177.85 million owed to several banks.

After long delays, the mall opened in 2009, and is now anchored by an assortment of fashionable retailers including Puma, Steve Madden, Anthropologie, Sephora and a Disney Store.

But critics have bemoaned the amount of empty space in the mall, as well as a planned Chicago Transit Authority “superstation” with express train service to O’Hare and Midway international airport that has never been built.

The 22 W. Washington St. building, which houses CBS 2 and Morningstar, is also on Block 37, but is not part of the Freed development.

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