My latest column is up at the Rock River Times this week.
Last week, the Illinois House passed a bill that would authorize five new casinos, including one in Rockford, and allow slot machines at the state’s racetracks. This bill was just short of the 71 votes needed to shield it from Gov. Pat Quinn’s threatened veto.
It is my contention that Gov. Quinn should not only sign this bill into law, but the Illinois legislature should go one step further and replace the state’s haphazard gambling laws with one simple piece of legislation that taxes, regulates and treats gaming in Illinois like any other entertainment industry.
Legal gambling has come to Illinois in fits and starts. For much of our history, most forms of gambling were prohibited by law and either controlled by organized crime or occasionally tolerated by public officials and law enforcement.
Betting on horse races has been legal since 1927, an Illinois lottery began in 1972, and in 1990, then-Gov. Jim Thompson signed a bill authorizing 10 licenses for riverboat casinos.
In 2009, legislators voted to legalize the video poker machines that had already been operating in thousands of bars, restaurants and truck stops throughout the state. Gov. Quinn, however, has dragged his heels over any further expansion, and he vetoed a gaming bill last year that would have brought a casino to Rockford.
It is not the role of the state to pick and choose which forms of economic interaction to recognize, or to shield people from their personal failings. There is no logical reason why it should be legal to bet on a horse race and not on a poker game, or to play the slot machines on a boat and not on land. Does buoyancy make a difference? The distinction is ludicrous. Government has no right to ban the voluntary, mutual exchange of money between consenting adults, or to then turn around and “allow” it as long as the state gets to keep a chunk of the winnings. All forms of gambling, as long as they are honest and voluntary, should be decriminalized and their taxation eased. Let us spin the roulette wheel, and let fate—not the government—decide whether we win or lose.