By Stanley Campbell
Unless Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) vetoes the latest legislation allowing five new casinos, Illinois will become a gambler’s paradise. I mean, the people who OWN one of the new casinos will enjoy the benefits. We’ll just be cleaning up the mess. And that’s why Rockford should own any casino in Winnebago County.
You heard me right: if Rockford is gonna get a casino, the city might as well own it. The profits will then go to the economically affected. A casino drains cash from the surrounding area, and doesn’t leave much except addicts and losers.
This is not the first time Rockford’s been in line to get a gaming den of iniquity. In 2002, Illinois gambling officials denied Emerald Casino from doing business in the state (too many mobsters on the payroll), and miracle of miracles, Chicago refused to jump into the bidding for that license, so it looked like Rockford had a chance.
In Rockford, two groups wanted a piece of the action—a Republican boat and a Democratic boat. Palace Development, Inc., was the only group left standing, and they’ve been trying since 1994. Don’t know who’s gonna get the “investment opportunity” this time. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you view the case), our mayor, who promised to oppose gambling, now helps bid for a license.
I don’t want to get into the arguments against industrial-sized gambling: it increases the number of addicts in a community, which then increases the number of indigent families and the amount of crime and poverty; so much money is made off so few people; or economic studies show a community loses money in the long run, as well as jobs and investments. No, I won’t mention that.
I will remind you that Winnebago County voted 75 percent to have a say in whether we get a casino or not. The citizens of Winnebago County should be asked by referendum if they want a casino before any more time and effort is made to bring one to our fair city.
Then, if the people decide, the city and county should own it. The profits are too great to let outside and inside politicos control that amount of free cash. State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-34) has intimated the casino may help Rick Nielsen’s guitar museum/hotel complex out on Riverside near the interstate. Good—get it as far from downtown Rockford as possible. Do everything to dissuade Rockfordians from gambling.
Some of the smarter Indian casinos disallow their own members from gambling. You can work there; just don’t let your friends gamble. Unless you own one, a casino is a sucker’s bet. And if the statistics are true, one out of 20 of our neighbors will be addicted if they walk into one of those places (right now, we have about 1,000 addicted gamblers. We’ll double or triple that number with one so close to home).
Who will deal with the suffering as a result of family members plunking hard-earned currency into electronic one-armed bandits? Of course, not everyone is an addict. But the casino business is not there to entertain you. They want those who can’t control themselves, and will give them all their money. That’s the way casinos get rich: prey on the weaklings in the gene pool.
There should be some way to cut off the addicts, kinda like not serving an alcoholic a drink. Some businesses make their money on addicts, but it’s not right—it really isn’t moral to encourage addictions. There’s a difference between letting someone get drunk, and making money off the addicts. If we make money off the addict, aren’t we liable for damages? Isn’t that worse than the cigarette companies that still kill most of their customers with their product?
If Rockford is to get a casino, then let’s have access to the funds to make our community whole, and not be on the wrong side of the betting table.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the June 8-14, 2011 issue