The Illinois General Assembly has approved a massive expansion of gambling that Gov. Pat Quinn must stop.
The Illinois Senate, at the last moment and on a 30-26 vote, passed legislation that would add slot machines at horse racing tracks and bring casino gambling to five additional cities across the state — including Chicago and the south suburbs.
A major problem with this legislation is the Chicago area casino market is saturated. There are numerous casinos ringing the city, from Milwaukee to Elgin to Joliet to Aurora to Northwest Indiana to southwest Michigan. Anyone who wants to gamble has plenty of opportunities.
Adding more casinos to the mix likely would hurt existing casinos rather than bring even more gambling to the Chicago market. It would redistribute existing dollars rather than generate additional revenue. That would help neither the state nor the casinos.
In Indiana, there is discussion of allowing a land-based casino to be built in Gary. That's different from what the Illinois General Assembly seeks, because the existing Majestic Star casinos on the Lake Michigan shore at Gary would be closed if a land-based casino opens. There would be no net expansion of casinos in Indiana.
Quinn should be very wary of this attempt to boost Illinois state revenues with a massive expansion of gambling. It's smoke and mirrors rather than a real attempt to bring fiscal discipline to the state.
The existing casinos have spent millions on infrastructure and job creation. Don't punish them for these efforts by setting up new competitors in the marketplace. Instead, let the existing market forces determine who will attract the customers.
The casinos, not the government, are supposed to be in the business of creating winners and losers.