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Ministers Push For Casino In Ford Heights

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A coalition of south suburban ministers said Monday that it’s not promoting gambling, but the ministers do want a casino in far south suburban Ford Heights.

WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports that the ministers’ news conference was part of a push for the Merit Gaming Group to get state permission to build a casino in Ford Heights, which presently does not have enough money to fund its own police and fire departments.

Sweetening the pot would be a pledge of funds to reopen and then operate a trauma center for the currently under-served area.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

Of the ten clergy speaking, at least five stressed that they are not supporting gambling, per se – but they are supporting the idea of a casino, which they believe would bring jobs, revenue and health care into the area.

Chief Apostle William McCoy said his only desire is to help low income suburbs.

“We’re not advocating gaming as the clergy, but we’re advocating economic development,” McCoy said.

Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims (D-5th) separated gambling from what it might bring to the southern suburbs.

“This is not about gaming for the Southland, this is about economic development,” Sims said.

Merit Gaming attorney Anthony Bass said, “I really want to thank the clergy for really stepping out on faith today and taking a hard position that some people may believe that they shouldn’t be.”

Merit Gaming is promising to pay for the cost of establishing a new trauma center at a south suburban area hospital if Quinn approves a new casino for Ford Heights.

Gov. Pat Quinn has already balked at signing a gambling expansion bill approved by lawmakers earlier this year.

The governor has said he supports building five new casinos – including one in the suburbs – but he opposes allowing slot machines at racetracks, a key component to the gaming expansion plan. Without slots at the tracks, supporters of the gaming bill have said it will die altogether.

The south suburban group not only wants Quinn to support the gaming bill, but also to short circuit the bid process and designate Ford Heights as the site for the south suburban casino.

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