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 vogelgraph@yahoo.com

(6) comments

Chadwick Snow
Chadwick Snow

This editorial is wrong on so many fronts. First, Vogel contends that the number of gamblers will be expanded though offering video poker. He doesn't "buy" the body of work done by the vast majority of economists that shows that people who gamble will gamble and that the availability of new gamblers is limited by a finite market. Video gambling in bars is at the bottom end of the food chain and will not draw throngs of new gamblers. But that is not the real problem with Vogel's editorial: My second point is that, Steve, it is a choice to gamble and it is the gambler's money that is being placed at risk. That's called freedom. The freedom to engage in an activity that causes no one harm other than the potential loss incurred by the gambler. Just last week Vogel decried extensive roles for government. Here he goes, on the other hand, saying that government should be about limiting personal choices. Finally, Vogel somehow links the outsourcing of government services with government's relationship with the gambling industry. I don't get it. Is Vogel contending that government services will be sold to the gaming industry for the purpose of privatization?

Nickyle
Nickyle

Freedom to engage in activities are restricted all over. Restrictions on voting age, buying cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, getting married WITHOUT a license, driving age, opening a bank account without a driver license, buying drain cleaner, how much you can w/draw and deposit, etc... i guess your against all those restrictions also? A person walks into a restaurant/bar with a finite amount of money to spend. They can either spend it on goods, services and tips. Or, they could put it in a slot machine. who benefits from the money going in a video poker game? Its one thing to drive to peoria with the intent of entertaining yourself at the boat. Video gambling in town will OBVIOUSLY draw more gamblers. it seems obvious to me that more money will then be diverted into gambling machines instead of into the purchase of local goods and services. Also, I'd be interested in reading the info you reference from "vast majority of economists...." Please post some links to those studies.

Chadwick Snow
Chadwick Snow

Voting age is established with the assumption that below a certain age someone can't make an intelligent electoral decision, whether you agree or not. The same could be said of the sale of cigarettes, etc. Some of the restrictions you identify sometimes do go overboard. But what Vogel contends, and I assume you advocate, is for government to make a decision that no one should play video poker. Most economists disagree that the presence of a video poker game will create more gamblers just like the presence of a library does not create new readers. It's simply a resource for gamblers and a convenience. Even if it did draw more gamblers, so what. Why is it government's job to dictate to an adult where he or she should spend their money. Restrictions on gamble, sure. Zoning and reaching the age of majority before gambling are fine restrictions. But to ban it entirely is paternalistic.

Comment deleted.
Nickyle
Nickyle

So if Steve is on a high horse, you must be on a 20 foot tall stallion. He's a "fascist" because he thinks localized gambling should be restricted? Since when does voicing an opinion mean your dictating how society should work? I thought that's what opinion pages were for? I go to the boat every couple of months to lose some money, and its my freedom of choice to do so. That doesn't mean I should have the freedom of choice to anything I want to do.

4ourcity
4ourcity

Dear Elected officials,

What I am urging with this communication to the entire council should not be taken as a pro or con statement for the proposal related to video gaming on the agenda Monday July 23, 2012. But wording that should be added to the motion and ordinance.
But a request for this item to be a part of the ongoing paradigm shift that quite frankly the City of Bloomington governing and management has much more work to complete to be consider open, transparent and sunshine. Something to keep in mind as you make your choices on this matter - President Abraham Lincoln
President Abraham Lincoln said: “Let the people know the facts, and the country will be safe.”
I would strongly urge that the motion for the video gaming have what are clearly granular details added as a part of the motion to approve as city staff had recommended last week.
Prior to knowing the results of a public survey on the City of Bloomington website.
So much for public feedback being considered by City Staff before making a recommendation.
A.)That a income account/fund (credit) be setup in the City of Bloomington's accounting software to track all monies that are directly from video gaming. This recommendation would be a move to proactively track this income. One of many good reasons to do this includes transparency, sunshine and accountability.
B.) That a expenditure account/fund (debt) be setup in the City of Bloomington's accounting software to track all monies spent from the income of the video gaming.
C.) That statement of expenditures of these monies be very strictly worded so that the money can be only be spent on one item.
Examples could be to replace the loss of taxes (income) from the proposed enterprise zone, wheelchair ramps on sidewalks, sidewalk 50/50 for those having challenges to pay for their 50 %, Miller Park Zoo operations fund, paving - maintenance for alleys, Police costs for downtown Bloomington for the bars, or a fund for those addicted to gambling to get help. Let me underscore only one item should be allowed by this council and in the wording of the motion.
The reason for this so that the direct knowledge of the taxpayer so see, know and be aware of what the video gaming has funded. Additionally it would be transparent with accountability.
D.) For a period of 1 year that the cost of allowing the video gaming to society locally, law enforcement and any other costs of allowing this be tracked and a report be given once a year on this. If possible under the law more than one year would be of more value.
E.) That this change comes back for a yearly renewal to the City of Bloomington council for a period of 5 years.

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