By Richard S. Gubbe
Gambling is not good medicine for the health of our region and the people in it.
While living in Las Vegas for 15 years with employers on my résumé that included Caesars Palace, Las Vegas Events, World Cup Soccer, Image Media, Madison Square Garden Events, Las Vegas magazine and the United States Navy, I learned a casino cage worth of insight into the world of legal gambling.
Here’s the first stupid miscalculation about offering gambling in northern Illinois: casinos and poverty don’t mix well. Thieves, gaming cheats, addicts and other assorted low-lifes are attracted to casinos. Kids are left at home alone or left in hot cars.
Next up, hookers galore. Rockford has tried to eradicate the prostitution population and was making inroads. Instead, let’s let working girls from all over America know there are drunken winners and losers who are in need of their services right here in the heart of the Bible Belt. Is that really the message our God-fearing people want to send to veteran hookers and wanna-be prostitutes?
“We need the money for our state,” the shortsighted cry. Get it somewhere else. Gambling in Rockford will only feed off local citizenry and create scores of addicted, poverty-stricken people.
When the state sells a license to a gaming corporation, where do you think the money goes? First and foremost, to the state. When the casino opens, where does the money go? To the state and to the casino company’s corporate coffers out of town. Money won’t be going to local restaurants or bars. Casinos have those, as well you know.
“But new jobs will be created,” more amateurs bellow. And where do many of those employees spend their paychecks? At the same slots and table games they service.
Let’s not forget a showroom. Bringing in washed-up rock and pop singers will only bite into the local entertainment dollar.
There has been a movement here to buy local. And we should. A casino won’t help by sending money to a gaming corporation or the mismanaged State of Illinois.
Who will benefit locally? A few gas stations and addiction centers.
And ponder the new riff-raff, drifters and con men downtown will draw. Citizens will get robbed on nearby streets, and cabbies will be held up.
Gambling also creates more homeless—people who will gamble away everything on a long shot. People will steal, sell drugs or kill people for money to gamble. A woman was followed to her room and butchered for her $40,000 jackpot she took in cash at Caesars.
With table games that boast a 15 to 20 percent house advantage and slots that take a hearty slice of your pie, the only sure thing is that money will vanish faster than a drug dealer can send a profit back to a foreign country.
Leave gaming to Las Vegas, Atlantic City and the Far East. Let it be fun, something done in moderation on a vacation.
An international destination like Chicago with its airports is a good idea. Take money from unsuspecting travelers and send it to Springfield without costing lives, increasing poverty and manufacturing addicts.
I leave you with the story of Mike, the almond farmer from California. Mike had a balloon payment of $1 million due on his almond farm in the late 1980s. He was an avid gambler who went to Caesars in desperation and won a slot jackpot that more than paid off his balloon payment. Months later, I asked the head numbers cruncher in the slot department how Mike did the past months. Surely he had kept some cash for himself.
No. He had given back the million and much more.
Is that a healthy idea for Rockford?
Richard Gubbe is an award-winning journalist, public relations specialist and Reiki Master Teacher. He is a longtime Rockford resident who has taught preventive health, visualization and Reiki at Rock Valley College since 2003.
From the June 8-14, 2011 issue