Gambling is all or nothing

March 17, 2014 

Thanks to Illinois lawmakers, many corner taverns and fraternal organizations throughout the state have video gambling machines. But Fairmount Park won't have those moneymakers -- although all other racetracks in Illinois will -- if either version of state Rep. Bob Rita's gambling expansion bill gets approved.

What, that doesn't seem fair? Rita isn't interested in fair; he's interested in getting a casino for Chicago. And he has decided that a bill will have a better chance of passage without video gambling at Fairmount Park than with it.

You see, East St. Louis gets about 40 percent of its operating revenue from the Casino Queen, and video gambling machines at Fairmount Park would be more competition. The fear is that the gambling market is saturated. (Gee, you think?) Rita is willing to bet on a winner -- and a loser-- in the metro-east if that's what it takes to get Chicago a casino.

This is a wrongheaded way to decide state gambling policy. If competition and saturation were concerns, then corner taverns and fraternal organizations should have been excluded before a racetrack. Any gambling bill should either allow all the racetracks to have video gambling machines, or none of them should.

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