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



CHAIRMAN JAMES: Lynn Barron. She's not here. Anita Bedell.

MS. BEDELL: Thank you. My name is Anita Bedell. I'm executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol Problems and Illinois Churches in Action. Those are statewide alcohol and drug prevention organizations.

In 1992 we also added gambling because of the rapid increase in gambling expansion in the United States, especially in Illinois and the close connection with alcohol and drug addiction.

As Milton said, if this is a battle and a fight, then we've been in this fight for six years. Sometimes it gets a little weary with all the tactics that come against us. When we first started lobbying in the Illinois legislature, there were two of us to lobby against 30 to 35 high paid gambling lobbyists. The tactics are very simple. With just two people sometimes we would be out of the room so we had to learn to have one person in the room at all times, even if the meeting was delayed for an hour or two hours. One of us had to stay in the room because as soon as we would both leave, they would go ahead and start the committee and then go ahead and pass the legislation.

I knew in January that you were going to come up here and this was a concern to leave, because this is the last week of the legislative session in Illinois. I learned this afternoon that while I'm up here, they have put together a conference committee report that includes dockside gambling, relocation of license and a referendum for continuous gambling in Illinois. Our session ends on Friday, as I told you earlier. This is what happens in Illinois. Everything is put together behind closed doors at the final days of the session and the less people that they have to give public comment or to call legislators, the better they like it. So this is a very difficult time for me to be up here but I think it's important that you here the story from Illinois.

Because of our concern for addictions, we get a lot of calls from families who have been torn apart by addictions. There's a story of a woman whose husband committed suicide, left her with a two and three year old. The mother that had two children, her husband owned two businesses. She went to the casinos with her husband's partner, asked if the casino would cut off the credit, and she said, can't you understand that maybe this man has a family and has a job. He is here all day and all night. The casino could see no problem because he did not cause any trouble. He has since lost a business and they have divorced.

These are some of the problems that we hear on a daily and weekly basis. So for all of the glamour, there is a cost. Thank you.


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