To Your Health!: Stop the ‘Casino Madness’

By Richard S. Gubbe

The slogan for Rockford casino supporters should be “Casino Madness.”

The list of who’s in favor of a Rockford casino has grown longer than the guest registration check-in line at the MGM in Vegas on the day of a heavyweight championship fight. But the fight may be canceled.

Chicago’s new mayor jumped in the conga line behind mayors from other cities involved in this asinine endeavor who are hoping to urge the governor to ignore his stance on a gaming explosion in the state.

“It will create jobs here in the city of Chicago, create revenue,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said. He says the money won’t be used for paying bills. (Remember how the Illinois State Lottery was going to save education, but it didn’t?)

Emanuel promised revenue will go toward “investment in Chicago’s future, meaning infrastructure, improving our water delivery, improving our public transportation, our schools, our broadband, so we stay economically competitive. … It will be for investing in our economic future.”

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) has led the local charge of pro-casino supporters, and his list of comrades is surprisingly long.

We haven’t heard much from church leaders, though. Yes, what about the morality of it all? Sounds like we’re selling out your community for some pieces of silver. With casinos everywhere, and one opening up soon in Des Plaines, when does saturation become an issue? There also remains the possibility of an Indian casino in Beloit, Wis., although the chances are slim.

The Des Plaines River Casino is said to be on the opulent side, spacious, well-lit and with limits in blackjack of up to $50,000 a hand, that’s hard to beat.

Casinos are already to the west, south, north and east — all within three hours — and one is nearby in Elgin. Others are perilously close in Rock Island, Joliet, East Peoria and Aurora. Ho-Chunk in the Wisconsin Dells is popular and within two-plus hours of pleasant driving.

In addition to a Chicago casino, the measure would allow gambling in Rockford, Lake County, southern Cook County and Danville. Slot machines would be allowed at horse racing tracks and the state fairgrounds in Springfield. O’Hare International and Midway airports could operate slots, and existing floating casinos could expand.

Then, came a piercing voice of sanity to squelch the maddening roar of those who want to make money off the backs of others. Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe’s comments about the state gambling bill that slid through the Senate and House like mom’s meatloaf was hoped to be a portent of a big rejection to come. Jaffe had referred to the measure in the past as “garbage,” and added last week the chances of its signing were more than a longshot. So much so that Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, put a hold on the bill after word leaked that Jaffe said he would be “flabbergasted” if it were signed by Gov. Pat Quinn (D).

During the madness, where are those local civic and religious leaders who don’t think all jobs are good jobs, and at what price is a casino worth the crime and punishment? Something has leaked into the city’s drinking water supply on this one, and the concoction is altering common sense and good values.

Only so many customers exist to steal away from each other, so let’s increase the number of competing venues, shall we?

To make this bill even a more insidious idea is the opening of a new casino that will have two years of a head start before Rockford could open. Just an hour-and-a-half away, the Rivers Casino will likely become the highest revenue-generating casino in the state, exceeding the $287 million at the Grand Victoria Casino Elgin last year.

Midwest Gaming and Entertainment is betting $445 million that’s its 44,000 square feet of casino space and six restaurants will wrestle customers away from Elgin, Joliet and Wisconsin. But already the casino has revised its anticipated revenues into the City of Des Plaines. Using a recalculated figure, Des Plaines would get approximately $16.25 million to split up in yearly revenue. The state would get $10 million of that, the south suburbs would share $2.5 million, leaving Des Plaines with a paltry $3.75 million. Chump change in a city budget. What happens when a casino fails and closes?

Let’s hope Gov. Quinn uses his power to stop the madness. Then, the opinions of those who only see dollar signs won’t matter.

Richard Gubbe is an award-winning journalist, public relations specialist and Reiki Master Teacher. He is a long-time Rockford resident who has taught preventive health, visualization and Reiki at Rock Valley College since 2003.

From the July 20-26, 2011 issue

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