Gov. Quinn promises to veto gambling bill after Ill. pastors send protest letter


By Thomas Verschelde

Senior Pastor Jon Hutchison of the United Methodist Church, 321 Oak St., said gambling expansion in Illinois is not a good way to raise money for the state.

A gambling expansion bill caused great controversy in Illinois, leading hundreds of pastors across the state to sign a letter of protest that was sent to Gov. Pat Quinn asking for a veto of the bill.

According to a press release, Quinn promised to veto the bill Oct. 17 unless its expansive nature is greatly changed. The bill has not yet been presented to the Governor, but if the bill is not changed soon, it will most likely be brought up in the Jan. 2012 Illinois General Assembly session.

The bill is set to create new riverboat casinos in Park City, Rockford, Danville and one other location that has yet to be determined. The bill would also allow Chicago to create a casino in the city.

“I believe the current bill is top-heavy with too many new gambling locations,” Quinn said in a press release. “I will only support a smaller, more balanced and modest expansion. As long as I’m governor, Illinois will not become the Las Vegas of the Midwest.”

The bill has seen great resistance from the religious sector in Illinois. The Illinois Family Institute initiated the letter of protest that featured over 200 signatures from pastors around the state.

“It greatly concerns us that gambling’s presence is rapidly growing in Illinois,” said David Smith, executive director of Illinois Family Institute. “It is already the fourth leading cause of bankruptcy and the fastest growing teen addiction. The state is helping to promote an industry that thrives on the exploitation of its citizens. It is immoral. This is not the proper role of government.”

Quinn said he would only support a smaller, more moderate expansion in order to prevent corruption.

The bill also had some opposition in the state legislature.

“I continue to oppose expansion because of its drain on the economy, how it will siphon from present establishments and the negative impact it will have on individuals and families,” said state Rep. Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley). “More casinos in Illinois will bring these negative effects to more communities. The advocates never want to talk about these negative aspects. We need to look at whether expanding is going to do more harm than good.”

Pastor Dwight Gorbold of Baptist Campus Ministry, 449 Normal Road, said gambling expansion is hurting, not helping, a social problem.

“It facilitates immoral behavior in people and can enable addiction which can destroy families,” Gorbold said.

Smith said according to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, for every new casino that is built, gambling addiction rates double within a 50 mile radius. For every $1 that a casino makes, it ends up costing the state $3 in the way of bankruptcies and foreclosures.

“The long-term effects result in a net loss of jobs,” Smith said. “Many people are only taking a short-term look at the problem.”

Hutchison said gambling is generally bad for the community.

“Gambling is bad public policy for raising revenues,” Hutchison said. “It takes money from people who can ill afford to lose that money. It is just another form of taxation in disguise. It does not promote the welfare of the community.”

Pastor Marty Marks of Emmanuel Lutheran Church and Student Center, 511 Russell Road, said it is the government’s job to help its citizens, not to put temptation in the face of its citizens.

“I don’t know that there is any inherent sin in gambling, but there is great danger in it,” Marks said.