Saturday, August 20, 2011

Gambling versus gaming – that’s what Quinn/Emanuel casinos quibble is about

While watching the activity this week of city and state government, I can’t help but compare the casino-related rhetoric of Gov. Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the shouting matches I occasionally hear between my 11-year-old nephew and my 8-year-old niece.
EMANUEL: For gaming?

I adore both of them (along with my other nephew and niece). But when they get into one of their “he (or she) took my (fill in the blank),” I just want to tell them both to shut their yaps. Because neither one comes across looking good.

WHICH IS ABOUT what I think of Emanuel and Quinn, who all throughout the week engaged in a back-and-forth related to the idea of a casino being built in Chicago to help bolster city finances.

Emanuel is a big backer of the idea, and it was in part because of his political muscle that the General Assembly this spring passed a bill that includes the massive Chicago-based casino that city officials have desired for decades.

Eventually (there are some procedural maneuvers that still have to take place), the issue will wind up in Quinn’s hands. Considering that Quinn has only lukewarm support for a Chicago casino – and hates many of the other gambling measures that got attached – he could be the guy who gets to use his “veto” power to kill off the idea.

Which is what lies at the heart of this week’s rhetoric.

THE POLITICAL HISSY hissy fits started at City Hall, where Emanuel tried to step up the idea that a Chicago casino has significant benefits to offer.

It was a wish list, of sorts, that he rattled through. Roads that will be repaired. New schools to be built. Upgrades to the elevated train system maintained by the Chicago Transit Authority. Improvements to public buildings to make them more energy-efficient.
QUINN: Against gambling?

All of which will only get done if the city gets the infusion of cash it would count on if a casino is built in Chicago and the city were allowed to tax it at a significant rate.

Not that Quinn was impressed. He responded by telling people that Emanuel is being premature in trying to figure out how to spend tax money from a casino when it is not a done deal that he will approve it.

PERSONALLY, I THINK Quinn ultimately will approve whatever gambling expansion bill winds up before him. But I think that bill will be significantly scaled back to the point where it will bear little resemblance to the measure now on hold in state Senate President John Cullerton’s desk drawer.

But while he didn’t use the word “veto,” he used words to imply that he might wind up rejecting the casino expansion proposal once it gets to him.

Some might say that Quinn was trying to rub Emanuel’s face in the muck that always arises whenever gambling as an issue comes up. Everybody should say that Emanuel definitely intended to do that to Quinn when he responded a couple of days ago, telling the Chicago Sun-Times that he had previously given Quinn a copy of his wish list – and that Quinn supposedly told Emanuel to make it public.

Is Quinn’s response to Emanuel hypocritical – a chance to play to those people who want to view gambling as the almighty evil?!? Or is this all a lot of childish chit-chat from a couple of pols who have spent too much time outside in the summer heat?

PERHAPS THEY BOTH need a cooling-off period before we let them speak further? It definitely bothers me to think that our mayor and our governor need a “time-out” (just like my nephew and niece) before we all go any further.

Now insofar as who gets the high ground in this shouting match, a lot depends on one’s own ideological leanings on this particular issue. I think they’re both so juvenile that neither deserves to be thought of as the winner.

Also, I couldn’t help but notice that Emanuel this week said how he thinks the bill has adequate safeguards to prevent the possibility of all this new gambling becoming nothing more than opportunities for organized crime to make more money.

Which makes him think that people who talk of increased crime and the need for strong oversight (which includes the Illinois Gaming Board and the Chicago Crime Commission, to name a few) are deliberately ignoring the economic benefits to government that can be derived from gambling.

THAT COMMENT REMINDS me of something I once heard state Rep. Louis Lang, D-Skokie, say in how he judges people’s opinions on this issue in part by whether they use the word “gambling” or “gaming.” He thinks people who persist in calling it “gambling” are deliberately trying to exaggerate the social ills and do not deserve to be taken as seriously as those who use the word “gaming.”

Emanuel and Lang are of the same mind on this issue, while I’m sure those who use the more traditional spelling are leaning toward the hesitancy of Quinn – who on Friday found an “issue” to preoccupy his thoughts.

How else to explain that Friday in Illinois was “Sheen Estevez Day” – honoring actor Martin Sheen and son Emilio Estevez, who were in Chicago promoting their new film.

And as for other acting son Charlie Sheen? I’m sure he’ll get his Chicago moment someday. Perhaps he’ll be in the city and will visit the casino when it finally gets built – dropping who knows how much money on craps, liquor and women all to benefit our city government.


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