CHICAGO (WBBM) — The Chicago City Council’s powerful Finance Committee chairman is watching the debate in Springfield over expansions of casino gambling with great interest.

Ald. Edward Burke (14th) said Saturday that he wants to see a casino in Chicago “sooner rather than later,” and said he already knows where the profits should go — retiring the $18 billion in pension debt owed to city employees.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bob Roberts Reports

“Over a period of time it can make a serious dent,” Burke said. “We have to start reducing it now because we can’t saddle future generations of Chicagoans with that massive debt.”

Operators of the state’s existing casinos say that the area is nearing saturation, and all additional casinos would mean is smaller profits all the way around. Burke agrees that the saturation point is near, but counters by saying that Chicagoans who choose to gamble should be able to lose their money in Chicago, “instead of 15 minutes away in Indiana.”

Asked how often he patronizes the boat, Burke said, “Never.” But he said his mother liked to pay the slot machines for hours on end.

“For a lot of senior citizens, it’s an activity they enjoy,” Burke said. “As long as they’re not hurting anybody, why not?”