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Thursday, June 16, 2011 05:56 am

Radical change:%u2008Slots at the state fairgrounds

A bill recently approved by the General Assembly radically changes the gambling picture in Illinois. Three major things occur. The legislation expands the number of casinos from 10 to 15 throughout the state, allows slot machines at racetracks and brings slots to the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

This year’s fair participants will enjoy horse racing if they want for six days. The races will yield $815,000 in purses for the winning horses. If people want to, they can bet on the races. The admission to the horse racing is free.

People can enjoy themselves and watch horses battle it out to be the winner in races. No one will get rich or lose too much on these small-time wagers made on horse races. No one gets hurt and people can have fun in the process.

But now because a gambling expansion bill (SB744) was passed this spring that can all change. The bill will allow up to 900 slot machines to be placed at the state fair horse track. Gambling on horses will be expanded from six days to nine months every year, while slot machines will operate year-round. And now a $3 admission fee will be charged.

The expectation becomes with this radical change that people will spend more money playing the slot machines. The average loss in May at Illinois’ nine operating casinos is $101 per customer. Can families in central Illinois sustain those kinds of losses?

Illinois is locked in a recession that has made life harder for working families…especially if they are not working. It is an odd time to expand gambling so frivolously. Most people see gambling as play time for the rich and those with money to throw away. Certainly the Illinois Gaming Board’s website (http://www.igb.state.il.us/) supports that thinking.

Gov. Pat Quinn is between a rock and a hard place on deciding what to do about SB744. One central Illinois editorial board summed up the dilemma this way – Illinois citizens and visitors will have easy access to gambling at every corner between video poker passed two years ago and SB744. They concluded this kind of gambling access is irresponsible for Illinois.

Political bosses receiving massive campaign contributions from the horse tracks and casinos to expand Illinois gambling have not asked Illinois citizens where they stand on this type of gambling expansion. It is highly unlikely the average person in this state would support the opportunity to lose so much money in order to play slots at a racetrack.

Central Illinois legislators are enamored with slots at racetracks. Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield) has stated he’s against gambling expansion that does not have slots at the tracks. He claims the slot money helps agriculture business in Illinois.

However that can only be accomplished with a massive transfer of money from other elements of society, including the poor who would frequent slots at tracks or the new casinos. In order for the good old days of horse racing to be sustained, people must enter into a new order of being losers at the slots.

Slots are programmed machines that by design allow the house to win over the players. Unlike poker, which is based on the cards dealt each hand and skill, slots are determined by preset programming over which the player has no control.

There is no doubt slot machine players will become the 21st century economic slaves to a new order of politicians who spend public money but are unwilling to raise taxes to pay for the money they spend. In the process a new breed of private sector entrepreneurs will benefit from the transfer of money from middle class and poor classes of our society.

Gov. Quinn will soon decide the fate of SB744. You can contact Gov. Quinn at 217-782-0244 to register your thoughts on SB744.

Doug Dobmeyer is the spokesperson for The Task Force to Oppose Gambling in Chicago. The Task Force made up of civic, religious and individuals has been active in opposing a Chicago casino for the past 22 years.
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