Last Wednesday I commented briefly on the gambling bill that the Illinois legislature passed. Here are a few more comments.
1. It probably says more about my attitude toward gambling than anything, but I find it interesting that not only has there been nothing in the media about the morality of increasing legalized gambling, but there is very little about the societal effects of increasing legalized gambling. On casino commercials on the radio, they always have a disclaimer about gambling problems and who to contact if you have one. It’s like the warnings on cigarette packages. But while there are frequent articles on the terrible consequences of smoking, there has been very little about the consequences of gambling.
Exactly, you say. We warn about the consequences of smoking because it isn’t illegal, which is why we warn about gambling, too. If smoking isn’t illegal, why should gambling be? But the fact is, if smoking was not already legal, nobody would propose making it legal. We’re stuck with it, so we deal with it. Also, what we are talking about here is not making gambling illegal (that’s an argument for another day), but expanding it. The bill that passed the Illinois legislature would triple the number of gambling spots in Illinois. Nobody’s talking about increasing smoking.
2. Joliet has two casinos, which have brought millions of dollars to the city over the last two decades, over $24 million in 2010 alone. The new legislation, by increasing the number of casinos and the number of gambling spots elsewhere, will supposedly cost Joliet $6 million a year in decreased gambling revenue. The city manager claims that this “thwarts the original intent of the gaming legislation,” which was to help economically depressed river towns with jobs and economic development. Except, if Joliet hasn’t come up with something else to provide jobs and economic development in the two decades it has had all this gambling money coming in, then it won’t do it in the future, either. Instead of helping cities like Joliet help themselves, the money has given them the chance to just continue along without doing what they need to do.
3. There are libertarian arguments for allowing gambling. Steve Chapman makes some of them in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune. But this isn’t the reason the Illinois legislature passed the bill. The reason they passed the bill was the same reason many people gamble: to get rich quick, without working for it.
Illinois raised its state income tax by 66-2/3% in January, and we still can’t pay all of our past due bills. Why? Because our elected officials have gotten us so far in the hole that even a huge increase in the state income tax isn’t enough. So, the legislators turned to the quick fix of more gambling. Some people may defend this bill on the grounds that people want to gamble and this bill just lets people do what they want to do with their own money, but let’s be honest. This bill passed because the legislators think it’s a way to get money quick, just like the gamblers.
4. Finally, and to reprise the comment I made last Wednesday, it is amazing that this bill actually allows the City of Chicago to run a casino itself. As Rev. Phil Blackwell said, if the city can’t rent trucks honestly, how can they run a casino honestly? Even if Mayor Emanuel can do it (for a few years), could his predecessor have done it? No. And what about his successor? As I said before, for the politicians and bureaucrats who have made Chicago what it is today, a city-owned casino is “(bleeping) golden.”