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Chicago Chinatown residents protest plans to build casino,

Some Chicago Chinatown leaders are opposed to having a proposed casino so close to the neighborhood, stating concerns that it may increase gambling among residents, reported ABC7Chicago.

If built, it will be within walking distance of Chinatown, Grace Chan McKibben, executive director for the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community said.

Last Monday, Chicago held a meeting to determine where the city’s first casino would be built. Three neighborhoods are cited for consideration, including the South Loop which contains Chinatown, according to NBC Chicago.

McKibbens cites that gambling has historically been a part of Chinatown culture, as it was one of the few options for entertainment for the many single men living in Chinatowns due to laws prohibiting Chinese immigration.

Dr Timothy Fong, who co-directs the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, adds that Asian communities are at particular risk for gambling.

“In Asian communities, what we see with men and women who developed gambling disorder is that they oftentimes struggle to find treatment because they can’t find it in their language or cultural barriers that prevent them from seeking mental health treatment,” Fong said.

State Rep. Theresa Mah, the first Asian American elected into the Illinois General Assembly, is also opposed to the casino. Mah cited similar concerns about gambling. Mah said that the proposed casino would harm the “growth and resilience” of the Chicago Chinatown, the only Chinatown in America that continues to grow in population.

“It really doesn’t seem to fit with residents’ desire for a livable community,” Mah said. “There are human costs.”

Other concerns over the casino include an increase in traffic and crime, according to Fox32Chicago.

Protests occurred on Sunday in Chicago’s Chinatown. On Monday, a special committee regarding the casino will hold a virtual hearing, according to Fox32Chicago.

The decision rests in part on Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who Mah has spoken with personally about the issue. 

“[Lightfoot] nodded her head as if to convey, ‘I hear you,’” Mah said. “If she chooses that site, she didn’t hear me.”

Still, Mah said she is determined to lobby Lightfoot and other city officials who are still on the fence.

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