NATIONAL GAMBLING IMPACT STUDY COMMISSION
N G I S C Chicago Meeting, May 20, 1998
THE HONORABLE DONALD SANDIDGE, MAYOR, ALTON, IL
CHAIRMAN JAMES: Our fourth mayor is the Mayor of Alton, Illinois Donald Sandidge. Good morning, Mayor.
MAYOR SANDIDGE: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much for allowing me to come to testify.
We are a medium size city on the Mississippi River, just above the city of St. Louis. We were the first riverboat in the state of Illinois in October, 1991. They came to the city of Alton. Prior to that the city had been an industrial community, but industry was closing, businesses were moving out, the support businesses were leaving. Since the boat has come to town things have changed drastically.
Since the Alton Belle arrived in the city of Alton we have received $34,347,489 of revenue and they have become the fourth largest employer in our community. With the revenue the city has begun a revitalization program to improve the infrastructure and general appearance of the community. $5 million has been spent on street improvements and this year we're doing another million or two on street improvements; 4.5 million on capital expenditures, police cars, fire trucks, trucks for the parks department, public works; $2 million on a new marina; $2 million on a riverfront development. In addition, we now have $3.5 million operating reserve fund we've never had in the past and we have $4 million in reserve to build a new police department that's in the planning stages at this time.
We're also improving our City Hall with a $2.5 million renovation. We're using less than $1 million of the gaming money for our day to day operation. And we hope to become less dependent on that as our revenues increase.
The annual payroll for the Alton Belle is $20,844,934, and that rolls over about six times in the region. We have 93.6 percent of the employees reside in the state of Illinois. New business is moving to town. They're bringing in additional jobs. For the first time in recent history, the city business district is growing. Vacant buildings are now occupied.
The critics of riverboat gambling projected increases of crime, prostitution and organized crime activities. As a former police chief, I was concerned about those projections, but none of those have occurred. In fact, that is probably a crime-free area around the Belle. We've been able to increase our police department by 12 people and in addition, the Alton Belle casino has security staff.
Our State's Attorney Bill Haine had commented that the downtown area is one of the safest areas in Madison County. In fact, to quote Bill, "there's been absolutely no crime problem occurring in Madison County which has resulted from the operation of the Alton Belle casino on the Alton Illinois riverfront."
The Alton fire chief Don Dugan has commented about the assistance given to the fire department by the emergency people from the Alton Belle. In fact, last Sunday, we are the home of the Nova super bridge that was on television and we had a jumper from the bridge, not gambling related, and the Alton Belle casino put their emergency people on the boats and retrieved him from the water and saved his life.
The Alton Belle has also contributed to the development of the marina, the riverfront park as well as the cost design for those improvements. This is over $1 million. The Alton Township supervisor has also stated that not one client has come to his office for assistance due to gambling problems.
In conclusion the city of Alton is extremely satisfied with the results of having the Alton Belle casino in our community. It is a major asset and would be difficult to replace. We are using the proceeds from the Belle to improve our infrastructure and general appearance of our community. The Alton Belle casino has been a good neighbor and we look forward to many more years of partnership. Thank you very much.
CHAIRMAN JAMES: Thank you.