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Expand gaming to Springfield?

Thursday, Dec 20, 2007

* Mayor Davlin mentioned this idea to me a week ago, but it didn’t seem like it was going anywhere, although Davlin was very hot on the concept…

[Rep. Raymond Poe], a Springfield Republican, is pushing the idea of holding harness races — and the betting that goes with them — at the Illinois State Fairgrounds beyond the limited run of the 10-day fair itself.

“The facility is there,” Poe said. “Someone could come in and make it work. I think it would be a great revenue source.”

Poe’s idea has already been raised in gaming discussions between House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, and House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.

“I brought it up with the speaker,” Cross said Wednesday. “It was not rejected.”

But neither is it on the front burner, Cross said. A number of other gambling issues have been on the table longer, and negotiators think they are closer to resolving those without injecting a new element into the debate.

The racing wouldn’t be year-round, but I’m wondering whether they’d put a year-round “racino” at the facility, with slot machines, etc. They could really upgrade the fairgrounds with revenue like that. Plus, it would give us somewhere else to go after long session days.

* Meanwhile, the Sun-Times editorial board comes out all the way for expanding gamling…

Experts will tell you gambling is a lousy way for the state to raise money. It’s not stable, doesn’t grow with the economy and isn’t progressive. But gambling is the only revenue-raising plan with a prayer of passing, and even then, it’s a long shot. Unfortunately, our hopes have to rest on a gambling boom to avert the CTA’s day of doom.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Princeville - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 11:50 am:

    I would think they’d have to add like the slots to make a go of just the race track. Moline use to have a decent horse track, but off track beating opened up and kinda spoiled it if I remember right and it ended up going under.

  2. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 11:52 am:

    Having just horse racing at the fairgrounds wouldn’t work. Just look at the numbers produced during the fair and you can see there is not enough betting there to make ends meet. Those races are great prep races for the younger horses and are good way to showcase our breeding program in Illinios. Much the same as any other livestock except you get to bet on it. There is already an OTB in Springfield. But if they need it as an excuse to get slot machines then that is another matter and may make sense.

  3. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 11:52 am:

    We already have off-track betting in Springfield and other than Derby day it’s not exactly difficult to find a seat in the place.
    Is there that much more of an appetite for this kind of venture?
    That said, the prospects of state workers losing their paychecks to a racino at the state fairgrounds in order to improve state property and help balance the state budget their paychecks depend on is kinda hard to get the mind around.

  4. - Macbeth - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 12:02 pm:

    State workers, I assume, would be prohibited from gambling. Or would they?

    If anyone wants to read a great book on gambling — and gambling gone wrong — read ‘Double Down’ from Steve and Fredrick Barthelme.

    Long story short: they took nearly $250,000 from their parent’s inheritance, blew it on blackjack and slots in Mississippi casinos — and then (as if that’s not bad enough) were *indicted* on conspiring to cheat the casinos. Surveillance tapes (apparently) showed a dealer giving them “signals” (when to take an “insurance” bet specifically). Nevermind that insurance betting in blackjack is a no-no (and the brothers knew that.)

    Anyway, they didn’t know the dealer and didn’t get the signals she was (or perhaps wasn’t) giving. Eventually, they were acquitted of all charges.

    Point, though, is that apart from thinking of gambling as *gambling* — and not card-counting and not avoiding the slots, keno, and roulette — the book is a horrifying tale of addiction. And — as if *that’s* not bad enough — the book demonstrates how casino thugs (the bosses of the pit-bosses and the guys that work in parking garages next to the casinos in cinderblock “offices”) call the shots — and are able to do so based on sympathetic gaming commissions and DA’s looking to “clean up” in order to show the public that they — they meaning the gaming boards and DAs — are doing a good job.

    Sound familiar? Like a little CMS case a while ago?

    Anyway — the book is fantastic. Highly recommended reading — not just for the horrifying money spent gambling but to demonstrate how these gambling joints can *easily* abuse their power — and f#*k with innocent people.

    I’m on the record saying that I support gaming for poker — but that’s it. So I, too, am conflicted — but this book makes me a bit less conflicted — and bit more worried to think that Blagojevich and his corrupt friends may (or may not, fingers crossed) be in charge of this stuff.

  5. - Gregor - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 12:20 pm:

    Would conflict with the various motorsports held there, though I’m sure they’d work out the schedules.

    I can’t quite articulate this feeling I get, but it feels somehow “wrong” to me to change the emphasis of the fairgrounds to making racing a continuous year-round main line of business. It somehow to my mind completely changes the character of the fairgrounds in a dark way. Why I get this feeling, I don’t know, it doesn’t bother me that we have horse racing there during the fair, or that we allow betting on it. But maybe the context there is that it’s more like the completion of a circuit that was touring the state all summer, the “best of the best” exhibition kind of thing. Converting the fairgrounds track to all-season racing makes it feel somehow less “special” , less “sporting” and more crass to me.

    I know that’s not a very scientific or well-explained argument. It is my gut telling me there’s something about the whole thing it doesn’t like. Usually the gut is right: even if it can’t explain why, at some point it is always telling me “I told you so”.

  6. - He makes Ryan Look like a Saint - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 2:22 pm:

    I think it is a great idea. Get some lights on the track and they can do the races at night. There are only automobile and motorcycle races out there a few weekends a year outside the fair so that should not be a problem.

  7. - Sacks Romana - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 2:27 pm:

    Since our legislative leaders like gambling so much, I think we should expand slots directly to the state house. Instead of voting (or not) on issues, our representatives can use their own money on slots all day, and pay for education, mass transit, pensions, and the structural defecit.

    For Blagojevich, the slots can be specially installed at his Chicago residence, so he never has to leave or attend to state business again.

  8. - downstate hack - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 2:41 pm:

    Much as respect Ray Poe, I doubt whether it could ever work due to the economics.

  9. - You're Kidding, Right? - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 3:08 pm:

    “Expand gaming to Springfield?”

    Looks to me that between Blagoofy & the ‘alleged’ legislative ‘leaders’, they’ve already been gaming for months !

  10. - Doug Dobmeyer - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 3:49 pm:

    Oh give me a break - as Michelle Flarity tells - the myth of so many gamblers dying to spend their money is just that, a myth.

    The only saving grace about horse racing is the animal is beautiful and graceful. Maybe that is why Bob Molaro likes horse racing so much or maybe its the campaign contributions he gets.

    Doug Dobmeyer
    Task Force to Oppose Gambling in Chicago

  11. - countryboy - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 4:32 pm:

    Our legislators do not “like gambling so much…”
    Corruption is very expensive…
    After 30 years of our head in the sand…
    Illinois is financially headed for the wall.

    Nobody has the t.v. to match expenses to revenue, or vice versa, so the back door default of “give ‘em more casinos” keeps popping up. Its a legislature that’s bankrupt of ideas and/or will, on the way to a state in the same straits. Don’t worry about the Vegas of the Midwest - we’ll be in receivership first…

  12. - Cassandra - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 7:38 pm:

    I want to believe the CTA and RTA need a money infustion, not least to preserve the jobs of thousands of politically connected Democratic lifers, but I can’t help but wonder if our state government, if pushed to the wall, isn’t going to find some more money in there somewhere.

    We taxpayers need to hold out. The money is there.
    Or some of it is there. It’s a negotiation, and we don’t have to lose (via taxes or more sleazy gambling venues to enrich or pols and their pals)
    the whole game just yet.

  13. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 9:19 pm:

    Well, let’s just think way outside the box and put some slots and tables on that “romantic” little riverboat that Uncle Todd Renfrow wants to put on Lake Springfield. AA thinks Todd may have taken one upside the head from the Bird Whisperer to sign on to that goofy scheme. Besides, that boat looked like something Clark Griswold’s Cousin Eddie would have piloted in “National Lampoon’s Lake Geneva Summer Vacation.” A firetrap POS.

    As far as the fairgrounds, the Blago workers out there have already advised they’re too busy with the fair 10 days of the year to handle a 6 day rodeo; I’m sure a horse track “racino” is way beyond their capabilities.

  14. - Cal Skinner - Thursday, Dec 20, 07 @ 9:25 pm:

    On to Potterville.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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