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My new pal Harley talks about video gaming

Thursday, Aug 27, 2009

* I’m not so clear on this logic

Let me be clear: I don’t oppose gambling. I go to casinos occasionally. I always have a grand time losing money. At least the drinks are cheap.

But video gambling in restaurants, bars and gas stations shoves it into the mainstream.

Just ask Eileen, a woman I interviewed who used to live in Champaign County.

She discovered $30,000 in credit card cash withdrawals after the death of her husband 10 years ago. A rule-following, Bible-reading truck driver, he got addicted to a video gambling at a local tavern. The owner illegally paid out from behind the bar and the cops did nothing to stop it.

If you’re going to oppose legalizing video gaming because somebody lost a whole bunch of money, then you should probably oppose already legalized casino gaming as well, because the same thing, and more, happens at those joints. Casinos, unlike your neighborhood tap, are scientifically designed to separate the customers from their cash.

Plus, video gaming won’t be in every gas station. We’re talking about big truck stops along interstates, many of which already look like mini casinos with dozens of poker machines that aren’t supposed to pay out, but do.

* Mark Brown takes a look at the situation in Chicago…

I oppose legalized video gambling on the grounds it’s just a sucker tax that will drain more money from those who can least afford it, although I’m finding it hard to get too far up on my high horse while we’re unable to police the illegal devices already found in many bars.

That’s probably the more reasonable approach. More from Brown’s column

But my understanding is [Chicago] aldermen have been advised that, while there may be some ambiguity in the legal issues, the most practical way to resolve them is to go ahead and amend the ordinances so nobody comes back later and tries to use the courts to shut anybody down.

The city’s Automatic Amusement Device ordinance says such devices are illegal if they “maintain a count of payoffs,” and defines payoff as “the giving of money or other thing of value in exchange for a player’s accumulated points or free games or replays.” A separate ordinance bars individuals from possessing gambling devices. Video poker per se is not illegal in Chicago, only the use of such machines to gamble.

The mayor has previously stated his intent to enact extra unspecified safeguards before the video gambling law takes effect, which in retrospect strikes me as a way to make the other vote more politically palatable.

It’ll make the vote more palatable, but the change will also probably further limit where the games can go and which people can have them.

* Anyway, I just spent several days in South Dakota, which has legalized video gaming. The bars don’t look much different than taverns here, except for the occasional cowboy hat and Native American patrons. Most have video gaming, just like here. The difference is, the machines are legal there. Also, lots of bars and other establishments have big “Casino” signs out front, which is pretty odd, especially since their parking lots often look empty and they only have a small handful of machines. They’re hardly “casinos.”

I began talking to Harley, an employee of a different bar, when I was sitting in “The Oasis” in Rapid City, which is somewhat of a dive bar on Main Street. Harley agreed to be interviewed and gave a surprisingly balanced, fair overview of what legalized gaming has done to his town. Take a look

* Related…

* Counties against gaming get a window of chance

* Kane studies hand on video gambling

* Aurora playing slow hand on video poker

* Fox Valley holds on video gambling

* Critics urge state to reconsider video gambling expansion

* Karpen Challenges Incumbent On Gambling Ties

* Video gaming on hold in Gurnee

* Village may ban video gaming- Lindenhurst weighs new revenue, social cost

* Video poker is local issue

* Video gambling ban could come to October vote - The Park Ridge City Council will revisit a proposed ban on video gambling at a Committee of the Whole meeting Sept. 28

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - WOW - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 11:08 am:

    Towns that opt out should not receive any project (if any ever actually happen) from the capitol bill.

  2. - Will County Woman - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 11:11 am:

    and why is that Wow?

  3. - WOW - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 11:25 am:

    The purpose for the video gaming is to help defer the costs of paying back the bonds that will go to pay for the projects. It isn’t like if town X votes against it in Y county that the other businesses in that county (that can offer video gaming) will be allowed more machines.

    So maybe that is the answer. The towns that opt out can in turn sell their rights to machines to bars or “clubs” in other towns. Thus bringing in some money to those towns and keeping the intent of the law intact.

    So maybe their projects should just be reduced by a certain percent since they will still be paying the booze tax.

  4. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 11:35 am:

    There are a million ways to blow your money if you want. This is just one. Let’s at least get some revenue from this widespread but illegal activity.

  5. - reformer - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 11:47 am:

    Mark Brown writes that “The mayor has previously stated his intent to enact extra unspecified safeguards before the video gambling law takes effect…” I don’t believe the state law permits locals to add various restrictions. Locals only get to decide whether or not to ban it, not to decide what locations are eligible for machines.

  6. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 11:52 am:

    reformer, the city controls liquor licenses, so they can put restrictions on license holders at will.

  7. - Shore - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 2:01 pm:

    I don’t gamble and don’t know anyone that uses these machines, but I think the fact that we are looking to revenue enhancement measures says that we have spent too much. No one is ever willing to look to ask hard questions. Should the city really be getting state dollars when it uses taxpayer dollars for things that would get you a federal indictment (using taxpayer dollars to fund aldermanic political activity?)

  8. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 2:48 pm:

    If Illinois wasn’t suffering from overspending, would we be legalizing this?

    Are we legalizing this because it is a good thing, or because we want money?

    So, if we justify this thing because we get money out of it, is that a good standard regarding these kinds of issues? What kind of behavior do we wish to legalize in order to collect money from it?

    Who is the addict here? The players or the State?

    The fact that we get money from this, is proof that people who play these games - lose their money. Why is it justifiable to set up a system where the State knowingly rips off it’s users?

    The entire thing stinks, and the fact that we are willing to do this makes us stink worse.

  9. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 3:09 pm:

    ===If Illinois wasn’t suffering from overspending, would we be legalizing this?===

    This is about the capital plan, not the operating budget.

  10. - Been There - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 3:23 pm:

    ===Towns that opt out should not receive any project (if any ever actually happen) from the capitol bill. ===
    What about towns that don’t have liquor or have very few bars? Should towns that have a large number of taverns proportionally receive more capital projects? What about the other revenue sources? Should your town receive more projects if it produces more liquor tax? I live in a dry area of Chicago. So maybe my streets should not be paved. But what if I go to towns that have taverns and video poker and blow my money there? But I don’t benefit in my town because there are no machines? That doesn’t seem fair. Maybe we need to ID who is actually losing their money in the machines and only their streets and schools receive money.
    There never will be a balance between where the money is produced and where it should be spent. There never is anywhere in government not just in this case. This is a goofy argument.

  11. - Highland, IL - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 3:50 pm:

    Do people really believe that the places paying out illegally now will “legally” pay out with this new law?

  12. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 4:16 pm:

    Towns that opt out should not receive any project (if any ever actually happen) from the capitol bill.

    We have been reading versions of this kind of statement recently. According to Arizona US Senator Kyl, this was the jist sent to him by the Administration after he questioned the success of the Stimulus. Why?

    It is an insulting and divisive statement, coming supposedly from a ruling party elected to bridge the partisan divides. It is a statement not to unite, but to divide. It is a childish thing to say, isn’t it? Is that how low we’ve gone in the past seven months? School yard logic?

    We are all in this together. That fact remains regardless of our political interpretations of the issues. That fact is not a drawback - it is a strength that allows diverse political opinion to craft better solutions to the issues we face. We cannot gain progress while disrespecting one another. We cannot gain diversity by shutting diversity out.

    For those in power, remember where you came from. One day you will return there. How you treat others may come back to haunt you - and we will all continue to lose.

    Stop it.

  13. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 4:23 pm:

    Highland, that’s highly doubtful considering how the machines will have to be set up.

  14. - Don Diego - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 7:00 pm:

    Rich you seem to be pushing the advocacy of the expansion of gambling that we need it. I have a question for you why didn’t the state issue just 3 more casino licenses it would of received the money up front and not cost them anything to implement it. Also would not cost the state in pensions retirement and other benifits a central computer systems and so forth yes a hand full of hires for the gaming board but not near the amount of people to institute the video gaming act. This was very poorly planed and you should see it and you know the connections involved that brought this program to light. This was not somthing they put planning into. And it will cause so many social problems because there is no way to impliment safeguards for problem gamblers like riverboats do.

  15. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 7:45 pm:

    Illinois’ success with issuing gaming licenses is zero in the past decade. We’ve been totally unable to generate a penny of revenue from the vacant license we’ve held that long. I wouldn’t want to sell or buy revenue bonds based on our Gaming Board’s ability to get more boats up and running during my lifetime.

  16. - wordslinger - Thursday, Aug 27, 09 @ 10:03 pm:

    Steve Schnorf, have you heard whether these are going to be double-barrelled bonds, and if so, what source and how much coverage? I haven’t been able to find anything.

    To the issue, I think the state would be crazy to continue to allow widespread illegal gambling, as it does now, without getting a taste.

    Rather than appropriate more money (which we don’t have) to enforce current laws that are being ignored, let’s take a piece of this vice that in and of itself is no better or worse than any of the others many of us enjoy.

    Gambling is a lot like life. You’re up, you’re down, and the house always wins in the end. Doesn’t mean you didn’t have a good time.

  17. - steve schnorf - Friday, Aug 28, 09 @ 6:54 pm:

    WS, no, I haven’t heard. Normally, cheapest would be ffc with the new revenues transferred to debt service funds. But, the last time I checked the Build Illinois bonds were still (Inexplicably) higher rated than ffc.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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