Guest Column: Casinos: a bad bet for community
By Lee Schreiner
Lets get this right. The Iraq war isnt about oil. Tax cuts for the rich really will revive the economy, this time. Whats good for SBC is good for the consumer. Now increasing gambling in Illinois will be good for the state of Illinois and its people. I guess any lie is possible with enough special interest money behind it. In the last few weeks of the legislative session, a number of gambling bills have emerged. After years of hiring former governors as lobbyists and pouring moneyA into campaign coffers, the gaming interests are poised to get everything they always wanted.
Rep. Lou Long (Skokie) has introduced bills that would legalize slot machines at race tracks, expand existing casinos, legalize video gambling at bars, restaurants and fraternal organizations, put a casino in Chicago, and oh, yes, they will lower the taxes on the casinos. The first bill, House Bill 143, has been voted out of committee already. House bills 142 and 144 will be considered shortly. If public outrage doesnt stop these bills, you can plan on the governor signing them if the SBC bill is any indicator.
Weve been down this road before. Remember the state lottery? The state promised more money for education and that they wouldnt prey on their citizens by advertising and marketing different forms of gambling or targeting minority communities. Since it passed, the state has never reached its constitutional mandate for supporting education. Then we had the 10 riverboats that would go to economically depressed communities, and they promised that there would be $500 limits on daily losses and that the boats would have to leave the docks so people couldnt lose their life savings. Chicago was also very deliberately excluded from having a casino, based on evidence from the Chicago Crime Commission, which showed it would lead to increased crime and involvement by organized crime elements. Before long, the limits were gone, and boats were docked for good.
One riverboat license was then to be moved to Rosemont, but when the investors were shown to be connected to the Daley family and organized crime, even the gaming commission was forced to pull the plug. Now the governor, who is married to the machine in Chicago, may be able to give Daley his casino at Meigs Field.
The local group Enough Is Enough has fought since 1991 against the expansion of gambling. The latest legislative proposals fly in the face of every legitimate economic model that shows you cant get something for nothing. Unless the money is coming from outside your community, it comes from disposable income that supports your businesses from shoe stores to NAT. Gambling robs your community and pays off the state with about one-quarter the take. The increase in social costs for the local community can be $2 to $3 per dollar of income as every local tavern can now recruit addicted gamblers. Housewives and the retired can lose their life savings without having to wait for the bus.
Call or write your representatives now to stop this expansion, or youre going to feel like Jimmy Stewart in Its A Wonderful Life, wondering how his time got so sleazy because he wasnt there to stop it.
Lee Schreiner is president of the local Enough Is Enough anti-gambling group.