Left Justified: Gambling sucks souls

The pro-gambling interest has been, and apparently always will be, State Sen. David Syverson (R-Rockford). He just today (this is being written Friday, June 1) introduced an amendment to include Rockford as one of the sites for a riverboat casino. The Senate is debating whether Rockford “really wants” a casino. The impediment (again, as of this writing) may be our own Mayor Lawrence J. Morrissey (I).

Larry apparently has not begged enough. He’s indicated that he will not oppose what the Rockford City Council approved (and they approved asking for a gaming license in a 10-3 vote). Larry was allso in Springfield walking the halls. That’s not good enough, and the “satanic” forces of gambling want our mayor to publicly sell his soul to them. Get down on your hands and knees, boy.

But Mayor Morrissey wants to say his position “hasn’t changed.” For those of you who don’t remember, Larry ran as an anti-gambler, opposing Doug Scott, who unabashedly supported bringing any boat up the Mississippi and parking it next to the Metro Centre.

Doug lost the mayoral election. My liberal friends supported Larry because of the gambling issue. And now it appears Mr. Morrissey is waffling on one of the most important positions on which he ran. If Larry stands by and does nothing, then can we trust him to stand by his other beliefs?

“Gaming interests” first passed the Riverboat Gambling Act on their way to legalizing land-based casinos in Illinois. The bill only allowed a limited number of riverboat casinos, and capped the number of people and time one could “play.” Over the years, restrictions were removed. The boats changed to barges that were permanently docked, and now proposed legislation allows land-based casinos.

They want four additional licenses in Chicago, Waukegan, south suburbs, and 5 miles from O’Hare Airport, and maybe Rockford as a fifth, if we sit up and bark like a dog.

Other increases include: Internet gambling on horse racing, electronic poker over the Internet at casinos, and increasing the number of gambling positions at casinos to 20,000—almost twice the number ccurrently in place. A perpetual city-owned casino in Chicago could never be revoked or suspended by the Illinois Gaming Board (the watchdog).

This means huge “windfall” profits for casino owners, and increased costs for the state (money flows out of the regular economy, and the increase in addictive behavior goes unmentioned). Expand gambling, and it will not solve the state’s budget problems. This mega gambling deal has been in the works for 15 years, since promoters and politicians wanted a casino in Chicago.

Gambling promoters have spent millions of dollars of campaign contributions on politicians to come to this place. It’s where they can force a massive expansion of gambling, riding not on the wave of people voting or asking for more gambling, but on the millions of dollars of campaign contributions that have gone into both parties.

Please, contact Legislators (217-782-2000) and the Governor and tell them to take gambling “off the table.” If you didn’t have enough money to pay for your health care or to educate your children, would you gamble to pay for it? Why are legislators and the governor willing to “roll the dice” on such important public policy issues? I want to thank the hard-working folks at Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems, and their capable and only lobbyist, Anita Bedell. Check out their web site at www.ilcaaap.org.

Gamblers could lose their house without ever leaving their homes with the expansion of legalized Internet betting.

The governor pledged not to expand gambling when he was first elected to office. During the recent election, the governor said his position had not changed. The Governor needs to hear from you asking him to keep his promise not to expand gambling. And we need to find out how our mayor will stop a casino from coming to the Forest City.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

from the June 6-12, 2007, issue

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