This year’s annual “State of the State” address by Governor Blagojevich generated controversy in part due to the large capital improvement package he proposed. The issue that generated so much op-ed ink was the source of funds that would finance the bulk of this work. The Governor proposed to expand gambling in Illinois to include Keno, a game of chance similar to bingo, in bars and restaurants, and to use the revenues generated by taxes on Keno operators income to fund badly needed improvements to roads and schools.
The Governor’s backers have argued that this is hardly an expansion of gambling, comparing Keno to the already-legal lottery. Anti-gambling and community activists however, take a different view, worrying about the effects that expanded gambling opportunities will have on the communities in which these Keno parlors will exist.
While riverboat casinos and state lotteries have proliferated dramatically over the past several decades, gambling’s place, both moral and financial, in our communities is still very much up for debate. While gambling has, in some instances, provided desperately needed funding for public schools and other worthy causes, in others promised funds have never materialized. Critics have questioned the rational behind using gambling as a source of tax revenue, as well as so-called sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco. These taxes are often paid by those least able to afford them, and serve to perpetuate and exploit what is otherwise seen as self-destructive behavior.
Do increased tax revenues justify the potential destructive effects of gambling? Does it make sense to fund projects meant to strengthen our communities such as schools and other infrastructure, with a source that is potentially destabilizing?
Tell us what you think at Café Society.
For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.