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Our View: Gambling expansion is a sucker bet

Published: Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

Proponents of gambling expansion believe they have a better opportunity to push proposals through this year despite failure over the past two years.

We’re hoping that putting their chips on 2014 will get the same result many Illinois gamblers get when they bet heavy – another loser.

Since 2012, plans to expand casino gambling in Illinois have focused on adding slot machines at the state’s six racetracks and at O’Hare and Midway airports and creating five new casinos, including in Rockford, Chicago, and Lake County. The Chicago casino would be operated by the city. 

A 2012 market analysis by Pro Forma Advisors the law firm Vedder Price estimated that such an expansion could generate between $1.4 billion to $2.2 billion in new gambling revenue. 

Or, put another way, it could take as much as $2.2 billion more out of the pockets of mainly Illinois residents – and many of them will be people who gamble compulsively, potentially at the expense of their families’ well-being. 

The theory is that Illinois’ government is in desperate need of cash, and it’s more sad than funny that such desperation is the same kind that leaves a gambler destitute. Of course, Illinois has serious financial problems, but gamblers call this tactic chasing your losses. It’s a losing strategy.

One thing we agree with Gov. Pat Quinn on is that expanding gambling in Illinois raises ethical concerns. We’d urge Quinn to maintain that position. Quinn has already vetoed two gambling expansion plans proposed by the Legislature.

Illinois is in need of real reform, debt reduction, decreased spending and a restructuring of taxes to make it a better state for businesses and taxpayers alike. Gambling expansion is just more wishful thinking that cheap fixes and tax hikes are the only way out of this state’s fiscal mess.

Gambling is and always will be a shell game as a revenue solution, where the only ones who truly benefit are those who hold the gambling licenses. Don’t bet on that changing if Illinois chooses to expand it.

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