After the November elections, there will be a postelection session of the General Assembly when members, feeling either safer or having nothing to lose, create the most mischief. Then Illinois citizens will be put in jeopardy by two likely legislative actions: 1) making the hated 67 percent increase in the state income tax permanent, and 2) gambling expansion.
Many legislators and scads of lobbyists will push for gambling expansion and assert, as did state Sen. Robert Rita, that gambling expansion "offers great benefits to the state and to local communities." The pressure to raise revenue via gambling expansion will be much greater because the Illinois Supreme Court recently issued a ruling that makes it appear that legislation aimed at reducing the state's pension system obligations will be ruled unconstitutional.
However, proven social costs of gambling expansion are ignored and not good for Illinois. It is irresponsible to try solving the financial plight of our bloated and broken state government by creating more problem gamblers and hurting more families. This is too high a cost.
Also, it is unseemly for the state to sponsor and promote gambling entities that are designed to harm its citizens. We already have racetrack betting, the lottery, 10 casinos, video gambling, and plans to inaugurate Internet poker and other gambling games. The casinos have 1,200 gambling positions each and, as of November 2013, there were 12,100 video gambling positions in the state.
Is it good public policy to add the proposed 10,000-position Chicago casino, four more land-based casinos, and 600 slots at Cook County racetracks (Arlington Racecourse wanted 1,200) and 450 slots at tracks outside of Cook County? The answer is no! Voters should press candidates and get their commitment to vote against the interests of the gambling industry and for the people of Illinois in the postelection session of the General Assembly and thereafter.
Charles F. Falk