FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 8, 2010
Contact: Carole Parks, Delmarie Cobb: 773-373-3860
CRITICS SEE LOSS BUT NO GAIN IN VIDEO GAMING
A broad spectrum of community advocates gathered February 4 at City Hall, where they feared the City Council License Committee might begin considering a repeal of Chicago's ban on video gambling. "It's a moral issue," said Fr. Michael Pfleger, "but the effect on the community is also economic."
The issue grew out of the Video Gaming Act, which the Illinois legislature rushed through last spring with scant public review and intended to raise funds for a statewide capital improvement bill. Of the money projected, 70 percent would go to site owners and machine operators.
"We'd lose 95 cents before seeing a nickel," Pfleger said in reference to Chicago's proportion of the take. "The city is not going to be able to balance its budget on video poker. They may take in $10 - $15 million, but they are going to spend more than that on police overtime just to manage all the problems that video poker will cause."
Doug Dobmeyer has studied the purported benefit of 15,000 machines slated for the city's 50 wards. He represents the Task Force To Oppose Gambling in Chicago. Though based on the North Side, across town from Pfleger's church in Auburn-Gresham, Dobmeyer hears the same "great sucking sound" of money flowing out of every neighborhood. He believes the city as a whole could lose up to a half billion dollars and asked, "What politician in their right mind would participate in such a scheme...in the middle of a recession?"
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and others lamented the social ills that accompany video gaming. "We put in 10 years of extremely hard work to get rid of gambling in the ward. We will fight every step of the way. Gaming brings nothing but problems."
"It's the 'crack cocaine of gambling,'" said Nancy Duel, echoing the Chicago Crime Commission's characterization of video gambling. Duel chairs the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church, in Arlington Heights. She noted studies show the problem is highest among African Americans and called reliance on gaming for revenue "a tax on the poor and vulnerable."
Dolton Inspector General Robert Shaw concluded, "We need to take the idea back to the drawing board. It hurts the little people, working people, and tears apart families. I hope aldermen take into consideration the pain and suffering it will bring."
Also present at the news conference were political activist Betty Magness and John Alan Boryk, Illinois Coordinator for the Washington DC based Stop Predatory Gambling. State Sen. James Meeks called in his support.
In her contribution to the event, Anita Bedell, executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems, warned of efforts to undermine the opt-out provision of the Video Gambling Act. Communities not accepting the machines can still benefit from projects funded by the revenues, although their absence reduces the amount available. Gamblers would have to lose $1 billion a year to generate the $300 million projected from video gaming.