Illinois Governor Pat Quinn Tuesday again vetoed gambling expansion legislation. It’s not that Quinn opposed gambling expansion, it’s that he didn’t like the law the legislature passed. He cited gaps in the oversight aspect of the bill. It is relevant to note that this defeat of gambling expansion is temporary. It seems inevitable that some form of gambling expansion will succeed in the next few years. The budget deficit is too large, personal budgets are far too tight for the legislature to pass up on increased revenue generated from this sin tax. It is Quinn’s lack of vision and failure to lead that has prevented such a bill to this point.
The bill Quinn vetoed, which would have scattered five new casinos throughout the state was deeply flawed. Illinoisans should be glad that it did not become law. These casinos, in various population centers would have served the state as sin tax collectors. The tax money casinos collect could otherwise be spent by individuals elsewhere, spurring economic growth. Casinos by their nature depress economic activity within a community.
This was the very reason Illinois approved gambling in 1990. That bill was a reactionary measure to save revenue from Iowa’s first in the nation riverboats that were located strategically to lure gamblers over the border. Illinois’ approach over the years has been to overburden Illinois citizens’ role in patronage of casinos over the years. If casinos are known to dampen economic activity, then new patrons with outside money should be sought.
A state government looking out for its constituents, when using gambling as a tool for revenue generation, should use casinos to draw outside money into the state. Illinois’ political leaders have shown disinterest in who the revenue comes from.
Illinois recently expanded gaming with the opening of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. Locating the casino in the Northwest Chicago suburb ensures that Illinoisans will be almost entirely affected by the sin tax. Further exemplifying Illinois government’s lack of vision; it passed a bill in 2009 to allow for video gaming in local liquor establishments. Video gaming is an insidious form of gambling, preying on middle class working people.