Friday, August 14, 2009

Quinn OK with video poker ban waivers

Gov. Pat Quinn might have the right idea by not getting all worked up over the thought that some of the largest counties in Illinois want to exempt themselves from the new state law that makes video poker legal.

The laws that made video poker a source of occasional raids by assorted sheriff’s across the state (all of whom wanted some attention for their tough-on-crime attitudes by smashing up a few poker machines) were repealed earlier this year, with the thought that the state would tax the revenue as part of the way in which it would come up with the cash to pay for the massive public works programs many people across the state want.

BUT DuPAGE COUNTY recently passed a measure making it clear that the video poker devices had better remain for “entertainment purposes only,” or else they will still be illegal.

There is even talk that Cook and Will counties are considering similar action, along with the chance that Peoria County in central Illinois would do the same thing.

When one considers that Cook, DuPage and Will counties account for about 6.7 million people, or just over half of the state’s population, it sounds serious. It sounds like the counties are preparing to rebel against the governor’s desires and trash any hope that there will be money to pay for all those road repairs and other municipal construction projects that are part of a Capital Projects plan.

But we have to remember that the county boards and their respective sheriff’s police departments have direct control only over those portions of their areas that are unincorporated.

WHEN IT COMES to the Chicago area’s half-a-dozen counties, most people live in incorporated areas.

So for most people, the fact that the county board is “talkin’ tough” about wanting to continue to crack down on crime and the evils of gambling really doesn’t mean much.

Unless the individual city councils and village boards start taking it upon themselves to pass resolution after resolution exempting themselves from the video poker measure, the fact is that the devices will remain legal throughout much of the Chicago area, and Illinois – even though places like suburban Rosemont and Country Club Hills have enacted their own bans.

So Quinn is merely being level headed when he says he doubts that enough communities will take on a video poker waiver to seriously impact the amount of money to be raised for the Capital Projects plan.

THE FACT ALSO is that most municipalities these days are trying to figure out how to pay for all the things they need or want to do, at a time when their local sales tax revenues are down and foreclosures on the rise threaten the amount of local property taxes they will collect.

I honestly believe that most municipalities will go along with the idea of video poker being legal if it means they get money so they can repave their local streets.

Some people will argue that such an attitude is a disgrace.

Legal gambling in any form brings on social problems that threaten the status of our society. They’d argue we ought to be doing everything possible to discourage the very concept that gambling is acceptable in any form.

THEN, SOCIETY AS a whole likely would yawn in response, and a couple of people likely would tell those people to shut their yaps. For the fact is that we as a society have accepted gambling as a legitimate form of raising money.

Many of those people even go out of their way to use the word “gaming” to describe it because they don’t want to have to address the so-called moral qualms about gambling.

And I’m sure there are enough political people who will take that attitude that we won’t see a sea of morals swarming over us to suddenly keep video poker illegal.

So it is cute that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart can get worked up over this issue and wonder what was going through the minds of his former political colleagues (he once represented the Mount Greenwood neighborhood in the Illinois General Assembly) when they went along with a measure to let video poker be illegal.

BUT IT’S NOT going to sway many political people.

I’d have to argue that the sudden move by the county government officials is more for political show than anything else.

They’re taking a vote that they can twist into something moral sounding on their campaign literature for next year’s election cycles, knowing it’s not going to have a significant impact on the character of the state.

For the reality is that we’re always going to have a certain number of people amongst us who will want to pump their change into a machine of some sorts out of hope that they will strike it rich and a lot of change will spit back out at them – at least allowing them to buy a round of drinks for everybody before they go back to trying to find another “get rich quick” scheme that rarely works.

-30-

1 comment:

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