Legislators must stop gambling with education and pensions

Illinois voters know the Lottery did not solve the education funding problems in this state. Now, Senator Terry Link has a bill to fund pensions with revenue from Internet gambling and fund education with revenue from slots/video gambling machines at racetracks. S.B. 1739 lowers gambling taxes and would result in windfall profits for gambling interests.

S.B. 1739 requires Internet gambling companies to pay a $20 million licensing fee for Internet gambling, which is an advance payment on taxes. When legislators get a large pot of money, they tend to spend it on new programs. Remember the millions in tobacco settlement money which was supposed to fund healthcare and was spent before the State even received the money?

Like an addicted gambler, Illinois legislators are chasing their losses and trying to push through a massive expansion of gambling that will not and cannot solve the State’s pension and education funding problems.

S.B. 1739 contains much of the same language as the gambling expansion bill Gov. Pat Quinn recently vetoed –— City-owned casino in Chicago, slot machines at O’Hare and Midway airports, casinos in Rockford, Danville, Lake County, South Suburbs of Chicago, slots and video machines at six racetracks. S.B. 1739 also includes wide-open Internet gambling — poker, casino gambling, bingo, keno, slots.

Internet gambling will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from computers, smart phones, iPads, and Facebook. Making gambling so accessible will increase gambling addiction and harm to individuals and families. A study of American, Canadian, and international Internet gamblers found that 42.7 percent could be classified as problem gamblers.

Many children, poor families, and self-educated gamblers now have access to computers and cell phones, which could be used to gamble on the Internet if S.B. 1739 becomes law. Children would be exposed to gambling in their homes, and some could use their parent’s account to gamble. The welfare of children could be endangered by parents gambling and losing rent or food money online and neglecting their children.

Gambling is an unstable source of revenue. Legislators must stop gambling with education and pensions and work on real solutions. Call your legislators at (217) 782-2000.

Anita Bedell, Executive Director
Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems

From the March 20-26, 2013, issue

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