N G I S C Chicago Meeting, May 20, 1998




MR. THOMAS: Good afternoon. I'm Dick Thomas of Naperville, about 30 miles west of Chicago. I am a member of the Northern Illinois Conference of United Methodist Church. There is a major ongoing effort to increase the number of casino boats in Illinois. I am concerned about the drain on the economy as epitomized in more than $1 billion in annual gamblers' losses here.

That will average out to about five and a half million dollars during the two days that we have these meetings, even as we sit here. That's just Illinois. Several situations may offer some insight locally. A business acquaintance of mine owns a restaurant in downtown Aurora, about two blocks from dockside and has been there for 25 years. I asked him again last week if he had any fallout business from the boats. He said he had not, that this typical of other businesses nearby. People drive to the casino parking ramp and leave afterward.

A close neighbor often going to Las Vegas, would go to the boats two or three times a week, except the first week of the month when government checks were due. He felt that that was not the place for recipients to be. Residents of a retirement home for $15 are transported to a casino in Aurora, given $10 in casino start-up money, served lunch, then back at the end of the seven hour day. In a span of 25 minutes to an hour and a half from Naperville, we can reach at least five casino boats in four different locations, a horse track, two dog tracks, off-track betting parlors and literally hundreds of lottery stations. Gambling opportunities are rampant. Add the Internet.

I quote a Las Vegas casino owner, "We target everybody. That's the business I'm in. Money is money, if it's a Social Security check, a welfare check or a stock dividend. Also it's our duty to extract as much money from the customer as we can." Convoluted thinking has bundled entertainment, gambling and casinos together with families and education and make it appear to be a noble endeavor.

Proponents in Chicago at one time offered a combination lake, dockside casino contiguous to some sort of family resort complex, like a Disneyworld north meets Las Vegas east on Lake Michigan extravaganza. Is there something wrong with this picture?

Something for nothing simply does not exist. Government at any level should not be sponsoring, promoting or be affiliated with any gambling endeavor. Food money, medical expense money, mortgage money, retirement money all are fair game. Society is left to deal with and care for the mental, physical, emotional and financial wrecks left in the wake. When is enough, enough? Thank you.


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