A group of religious leaders held a press conference at the Chicago Temple on Tuesday, February 23rd, to call for three actions: that Governor Quinn delete video gambling from the state budget, that the Gaming Board call a moratorium on video gambling expansion until all costs are identified and addressed, and that each alderman in Chicago hold a discussion about the impact of video gambling in the ward before there is any vote in the City Council. John Buchanan of Fourth Presbyterian, Joy Rogers of St. James Cathedral, Dan Mayall of Holy Name Cathedral (by letter), and Phil Blackwell of the Chicago Temple were among the speakers. Read the paper on Video Gambling by Philip L. Blackwell.
Why this issue? The state budget that was adopted last fall includes a heavy reliance on video gambling as a new revenue source, ostensibly directed toward capital construction projects. However, legislators already have identified money enough to begin to let contracts, civic groups are pointing to alternative ways to fund these projects in the long term, and this expansion of gambling is becoming an issue in the gubernatorial race. So, it is a “front burner” issue, and the ecclesiastical leaders called for policy makers to stop being so cowardly as to resort to prey upon people and to have the courage to tell the truth about how much it costs to fix potholes, educate children, and pay pensions. Truth being told, then it becomes a matter of the public acting responsibly.
Why now? Well, not only it is an urgent budget concern in Springfield; it also is political matter in Chicago’s City Council. There is a proposal for aldermen to rescind the current ban on legalized gambling in the city and allow potentially 15,700 machines to be placed in the bars and restaurants of the city. This is the equivalent of almost 16 riverboats within the city limits. The four ministers who led the discussion at the press conference all serve churches which sit in Chicago’s 42nd Ward. They raised concerns about increases in poverty, crime, family stress, and violence, but also they asked, “Is this the vision that we have for our neighborhood? Is this the way in which we want to organize our life together? Is this just, or is there a better way?” Joined by additional speakers, they then outlined several ways to address the public issues that in a more faithful way.