MARK KIESLING: Put poker question in the hands of the people

2012-10-12T00:00:00Z MARK KIESLING: Put poker question in the hands of the people nwitimes.com
October 12, 2012 12:00 am

Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, a Massachusetts Democrat who served in the U.S. House for 34 years, once famously said, "All politics is local."

Meaning, of course, that while we might be sick of/captivated by (you choose) the November presidential contest, it's what happens at home that has the greatest impact.

Most of that won't be coming from Barack or Mitt — two great presidential first names, by the way — but from your local state reps and senators and your homegrown federal reps and senators.

And so it is with the decision on whether to permit video poker games that would yield a payout for Lansing.

Illinois said, after long wrangling, that it's all right, and cities and villages wasted no time in lining up behind the idea.

Glenwood, Dolton, Chicago Heights, Lynwood, Glenwood and Calumet City have approved video poker, which began Wednesday in selected communities statewide.

Lansing Village President Norm Abbott says he is leaning the other way.

People in Lansing, he says, just flat out don't want gambling in their village.

Not so fast, there, Mr. Abbott. 

Charles Mabry, head of the Edward Schultz Post 697 of the American Legion, said his post could go out of business if it doesn't get video poker machines.

Scare tactics? The VFW Post on Ridge Road is for sale, although in all candor other problems went into that closure.

But a lot of small-business owners operate on a razor-thin profit margin now, and the extra cash could give them some breathing space.

A 2009 study estimated the video gambling alone could raise $31 billion for construction of schools, roads and other infrastructure projects.

"If the state says they’re OK and the businesses say they’re OK, then I believe in freedom," said Bob Malkas, former manager of the Lansing Municipal Airport. "Nobody who lives on the other side of town should be able to tell them what they can or cannot do.”

It's fair to do a study of the impact of video gambling, sort of. It's prevalent enough that we're already got a fairly good idea of how it behaves.

So the time has come.

If we can elect a president, whom most of us will never meet in their lives, let's meet the question of video gambling head-on in a binding referendum.

My guess is that the turnout would be bigger than November's contest.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com or (219) 933-4170.

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