Illinois 'doubles down' on gambling expansion


Roulette wheelIllinois is on the cusp of another major expansion of gambling if the gambling interests and their supportive politicians have their way.

In May, the Illinois General Assembly passed SB 744 that would seek an expansion of gambling in Illinois. Because Gov. Pat Quinn had expressed reservations, the State Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) held the bill and did not forward it to the governor for action. In late August, Gov. Quinn, who has been meeting with supporters and opponents on the issue, asked for the bill.
Legislators, fearing a gubernatorial veto, have been reluctant to give the governor the bill until they know he will sign it. Legislators are asking Gov. Quinn to outline his concerns so in the fall veto session, they can make any alterations to it with assurance that the governor will sign it.
Currently, 10 riverboats are operating in Illinois, the latest having just opened in July in Des Plaines. The state also has six racetracks and 25 off-track betting parlors. This doesn’t include the Illinois State Lottery, which is another option for gambling.SB 744, as passed, would add five more casinos in the state: in Chicago, Danville, Park City (in Lake County, a suburban county north of Chicago), Rockford and the South Chicago suburbs. View map of current gambling and what expansion will add...
In addition, SB 744 will place slot machines at the six racetracks, as well as at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
The slot machines are seen as a payoff to the horse-racing industry, which has been on the decline for the past 10 years. The industry doesn’t mention the revenue windfall it recently received, however, saying that it is a one-time shot in the arm and not a stable revenue source.
Final expansion is placement of slot machines at O’Hare and Midway Airports.
Illinois Gaming Board Chairperson Aaron Jaffe has major expressed concerns that this legislation usurps the regulatory authority of his agency. He has described the bill as “fatally flawed.”
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, however, has outlined how he plans to make infrastructure repairs in Chicago with the expected gambling revenue. This, of course, is an attempt to box in the governor.
United Methodist Bishop Gregory Palmer of Illinois Great Rivers wrote a letter to Gov. Quinn on Aug. 15 that expressed serious concerns about this “under the table” expansion. The United Methodist Social Principles call gambling “a menace to society, deadly to the best interests of moral, social, economic and spiritual life, destructive of good government and good stewardship.” (¶163G, United Methodist Book of Discipline 2008)
Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems (ILCAAAP), which partners with both the Illinois Great Rivers and Northern Illinois United Methodist conferences on gambling matters, was among a group of religious leaders opposed to gambling that met with Gov. Quinn on Aug. 18. During that meeting, Bishop Palmer’s letter to the governor was hand delivered. The letter is consistent with the anti-gambling positions articulated in the Social Principles and our Book of Resolutions.
We’ve learned that supporters of the gambling bill are outpacing opponents in calls and emails to the governor's office. A Quinn spokeswoman said 11,064 people have expressed support, while 2,961 are opposed. 
In these lean economic times, the worst thing to do is to prey upon low-income and middle class families who have already tightened their belts. Gambling casinos are just an extra tax on those least able to afford it. More gambling also comes with high social costs such as gambling addiction, bankruptcies, divorce and small businesses closures among other serious ills.
It’s critical that your voice is heard!

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