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Open Letter

I don't object to funding society with money raised from the state-sponsored addiction of wretched citizens blowing their next child support or mortgage payments on their next fix. Gambling, in other words. But this Chicago casino idea you're batting around . . . I just don't know.

Really, it's not the gambling that bothers me, per se. The case can be made that, since addictions are often genetically-based, they can't be stamped out - so we may as well make hay while administrative assistants and salesmen squander their meager paychecks on riverboats.

As the gambling lobby points out, riverboat customers contribute to the surrounding economy. After a long day on the water yanking slot machine handles, anyone who left their children strapped securely in their car seats will be much more likely to treat the little tykes to a Happy Meal. Who wants to cook when you've lost all the grocery money?

Plus, according to reports on the public hearing held in Chicago last week by the House Gaming Committee, the city promises to spend 70 percent of casino profits on "schools, parks and other infrastructure." That's key, since I guess enough people don't play the Lottery to fund schools. I think the problem with the Lottery is that it doesn't have any restaurants, and it's too available. People don't want to throw their money away in just any gas station or White Hen. They like to get dressed up a little and nibble on an appetizer before jeopardizing their retirement. Clearly, a city casino would solve Chicago's fiscal crisis forever.

I am also not worried that your current legislation provides for an irrevocable Chicago casino license, even though, as Chicago Crime Commission president James Wagner insisted, organized crime would be drawn to this venture like Muscidae domestica on fecal matter. His words, not mine. I would have said "like flies on shit." Oh, OK - my words, but I think that's what he meant.

It doesn't concern me because a revocable casino license wouldn't make any difference even if Mayor Daley appointed Tony Soprano executive director. Not for a mayor who didn't get bounced out of office for Hired Trucks, or the city's ongoing attempt to escape its Shakman decree straitjacket by dislocating a civic shoulder while the judge isn't looking, or for covering the Buckingham Fountain plaza area with that infernal red gravel stuff. Revocable, schmevocable; what's the difference.

Here's the thing, though: I'd rather not have a bunch of sleazy gamblers pouring into downtown Chicago. The crowds for Wicked are bad enough, and who knows what will happen with Jersey Boys. But gamblers? Please. These are the people hunkered down at the off-track betting facility tucked among the garbage dumps off the Bishop Ford Expressway around 111th Street. You see their cars in the parking lot as you drive by on summer days so beautiful, you forget that if you hadn't punched the "recirculate" button on your car's control panel that you'd be choking on paint factory fumes.

The riverboats are tucked away in places like Aurora and Elgin, places I happily avoid. With any vaguely serious talk of a Chicago casino, however, this issue becomes NIMBY territory. When I look out my kitchen window, I would sooner see a posse of Special Operations cops gone bad than a band of red-eyed gamblers.

We keep hearing that Chicago is a "world-class city." A world-class city does not count blackjack tables among its cultural attractions, copies of foreign landmarks as architecture, or Wayne Newton among its leading citizens. Gambling would take the "class" out of "world-class." Bet on it.


Cate Plys


If you frequent Illinois riverboats, please don't be offended. Just find something better to do with your time. Almost anything will qualify, including sending in your comments. Open Letter is open to letters.


From Paul McCartney to The Person Who Let Their Dog Defecate Near The Southeast Corner Of 58th And Kimbark, see who else Cate has been writing to.


Posted on October 23, 2007

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