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Thursday, May 5, 2011 03:56 pm

Here are better ideas than a casino

Recently I was a panelist for a meeting of the Constitutional Rights Foundation of Chicago youth summit on the question of casino expansion. The premise was that gambling expansion would bring more money for Illinois education services.

One reason the high school students called for new money was because their sports teams may disappear. They argued this “sin tax” was better than raising the overall income tax which treats people more equitably. But, there are alternative taxes that could yield significant income to the state, city and local government without having more gambling, including a casino for Chicago.

Several of those ideas include:

  • A minute tax on stock trading and derivative products. This would have no effect on costs, but would yield millions because of the volume of business. This tax would be ripe for revenue sharing;

  • A city income tax of one percent on money earned in Chicago above $30,000 annually would bring in millions to city tax coffers;

  • The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability suggested taxing of retirement funds above a certain amount. This would be akin to what the federal government does with Social Security income now; and

  • Blending of local property taxes above the average cost per student to help poorer school districts in the state. An example would be Winnetka property taxes would assist Ford Heights in providing better education.

All of these ideas should be discussed, debated and considered before casino gambling is expanded in Illinois. Certainly these are better ideas than video poker machines at the corner bar or a casino that preys on the lower income people and the visitor from Cleveland to Illinois.     

The Task Force to Oppose Gambling in Chicago has opposed a casino for Chicago for the past 22 years. The principle reasons the task force opposes a Chicago casino are:
  • Citizens have not been asked their position through a referendum;

  • If a casino were located in Chicago the character of the city would change forever. If placed here it is likely more casinos would come in the future;

  • Chicago is a city of crime and corruption – has been and is today, That corruption can reasonably be expected to embrace a city-owned casino;

  • Chicago is a world-class city already – a center of finance and leadership.

  • Chicago at the same time is being asked to overturn a ban on video poker machines allowed under previous legislation. That move would bring more than 15,000 poker machines to bars, restaurants and fraternal organizations. It is estimated that a half billion dollars would leave Chicago’s neighborhoods with VP machines.

  • Money lost by families – $102 per gambling customer on average in March, 2011 – hurts families trying to educate kids, pay rent or just live with this recession.

  • It shows poor judgment for the state to lead an effort for casinos to fleece citizens of Illinois or the visitor from Cleveland. The house almost always wins while the player loses.
Government has always collected revenue through taxes and fees. Government has been charged to protect the public from injurious action by the private sector. Now is not the time for government to throw in the towel and go for money over their age-old role of protecting the public from nefarious forces.

Doug Dobmeyer is spokesperson for the Task Force to Oppose Gambling in Chicago.
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