Budget pressures sometimes move governments and other public institutions to near-sighted decisions.
For instance, the lure of a $483 million cash infusion led Ohio State University to give an Australian company the right to run and profit from university parking lots until 2062. Kind of like selling the egg-producing chicken for a quick buck.
Not long ago, Chicago handed over to private interests 75 years worth of future revenue from tens of thousands of parking meters in return for about $1.2 billion in upfront payments. Try to find that money now.
Cities have been known to sell affluent motorists access to special expressway lanes normally reserved for carpools. They’ve leased toll bridges and airports, licensed prostitution and cashed in on gambling.
Illinois has a long-standing relationship with the gambling industry. And odds are the City of Bloomington is about to become a kissing cousin in return for some indistinct revenue.
As early as Monday night, Bloomington’s City Council could vote to allow video gambling in as many as 121 eligible establishments as authorized three years ago by state lawmakers looking for easy money. Normal’s ordinance allows it and there has been no talk of changing that. A few area towns like Armington, Farmer City and Tremont recently opted in.
I personally like gambling, but I hate what’s happening as it penetrates our society. Study after study shows revenue and jobs produced by gaming (that’s what supporters like to call it) are outstripped by very real costs — some hidden, others not so much.
Recently, The Pantagraph editorialized in favor, with some changes, of legislation now before the governor to increase casino gambling in Illinois. It wrote “…the number of gamblers will not expand just because more options are offered.”
Sorry. Not buying it. Common sense says when gambling is closer, more people gamble and more develop addictions. The more people gamble, the more they lose. Sometimes it’s the milk money. Sometimes it’s retirement savings. A conservative estimate of what the City of Bloomington might receive in annual revenue is $100,000. That implies gamblers would be losing $2 million a year to local machines. The highest revenue guesstimate comes in around $600,000. You can do the math on gambling losses.
Yes, I know illegal machines and tipboards have existed for decades in some not-so-dark corners of certain establishments. “For entertainment only” video poker machines have found a way to dispense winnings without government getting its share.
But isn’t it a little telling that 25 percent of every state license fee is to be set aside to treat compulsive gambling?
The City of Bloomington seeks public input. There’s a thorough and objective discussion of the topic on its website. Better weigh in before Monday night.
And by the way, if I ever win the state lottery, I’m going to give away a lot of the money — but not to anyone who asks for it.
This and that
Notice how the new Leman car dealership at Veterans and Morrissey is being complemented by upgrades at the nearby Dennison and Barker facilities? … That was one determined gardener who slowly drove south on Veterans Parkway the other day with eight unsecured bags of topsoil sitting on top — not inside — the trunk of his red Cavalier convertible.
Vogel, of Bloomington, can be reached at email@example.com