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Oneidas may gamble in Illinois

ONEIDA NATION HOMELANDS, N.Y. - Could Illinois be the next state to host Indian gaming?

Officials from the Oneida Indian Nation of New York recently toured a 60-acre site in Markham, Ill. and have been in negotiations with investors and local officials for "several months," according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

Markham is located about 15 miles south of Chicago, the third most populous city in the U.S. The site under consideration is easily accessible from several Interstates and other highways. Mayor David Webb told the Tribune that would consider using tax incentives to bring a casino to his town of 12,000.

"I think it's an excellent idea," said Webb. "I don't think they could have picked a better location." He added that other municipalities around Markham would also benefit from casino jobs and spin-off businesses that locate in the vicinity.

Illinois currently has nine riverboat casinos operating on the Mississippi River, but has no Indian casinos. Governor Rod Blagojevic, a Democrat, last year quashed legislative efforts to help offset his state's budget deficit by opening more casinos. A spokeswoman quoted by the Syracuse Post-Standard said that expanded gambling in Illinois is "off the table" for the current fiscal year.

The Oneidas' Turning Stone Casino, which opened in 1993, has grown into a highly successful destination resort - expansion plans for the Verona, N.Y. facility include a second hotel, a fifth golf course and a sports arena/convention center. Turning Stone attracts some three million visitors annually.

Elsewhere, the Oneidas are actively pursuing a compact to open a casino in the Catskill Mountain region of New York and have reportedly expressed interest in operating gaming facilities in Mexico if that country legalizes casino gambling.

To date, no Indian tribes have crossed state lines to open a casino in a state other than where they are recognized. In the past, Oneida officials have opposed efforts by two Wisconsin tribes to negotiate casino compacts with New York state. Both the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin and the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians have ancestral ties to New York.