Governor's Gamble

By: Erica Hurtt
By: Erica Hurtt

As Gov. Rod Blagojevich looks for ways to fill a $5 billion budget hole, he's eyeing gambling as one way to boost the state's revenue, a proposal that's creating some outcry among stateline residents.

Anti gambling groups say the governor shouldn't bet on casinos to turn to the state's economy around, but Rockford's mayor says the state should take advantage of any financial opportunities.

In recent weeks, Gov. Blagojevich has suggested that the state take over Illinois casinos to bolster revenue streams. And that nine new casino licenses be auctioned off to help fill a gapping budget hole. It comes as no surprise that anti-gambling groups oppose this plan.

Grey says, "It would be the first state in the United States that would actually say what we're going to do is we're going to take over a product that's addictive. We're going to make our own citizens losers and we're going to call it all for the benefit of the good."

However, Grey says the real issue is not whether gambling is good for Illinois or not it's that the governor is breaking campaign promises not to expand gambling.

Grey also says, "He signed a pledge to not expand gambling into special areas, and it's very disheartening to people who elect officials to watch them not keep their word."

Rockford Mayor Doug Scott says the governor isn't going back on his word. He's not on new casinos or video poker machines; Scott says the governor is just trying to maximize returns on current investments.

"The licenses are only good for a certain period of time and there's always been a legislative move afoot the last few years to try and do things to maximize the amount of dollars that the state gets of the riverboats instead of the amount that goes to the private sector,” he states.

Scott says he would definitely be interested in bringing a riverboat casino to Rockford, saying Rockford already has all of the problems that come along with gambling but none of the financial benefits.

Last week, on a visit to Rockford, Blagojevich told reporters his legal and policy teams are aggressively exploring the idea of taking over the casinos, but it could be months before they come up with any solid plan for or against the proposal.


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