Give vets’ clubs right to video gambling
SouthtownStar editorial September 13, 2012 8:50PM
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:43AM
When the Legislature passed the video gambling law in 2009, the plan was to replace thousands of illegal machines around the state, most controlled by organized crime, and raise about $500 million a year for the state through the gambling revenue.
What seems easy often is not.
The Illinois Gaming Board decided on a complex computer system to operate and monitor the thousands of new video machines, hire a company to install and run it and also conduct criminal background checks on machine manufacturers, distributors and the business owners that would offer the devices. Implementation is still trudging along, but the first machines are scheduled to be installed this fall.
And sadly, the law did not take into account that allowing towns to opt out of video gambling would leave some VFW, American Legion and Amvets posts without the machines — legal or not. Many of these veterans’ clubs may fold because they can’t make up the lost income.
The painfully slow logistics of video gambling have risked a segment of the community that deserves all the help it can get. The vets’ clubs are social sanctuaries and often serve the public interest as fundraisers and hubs of community action. If they need an exemption from the law to offer video gambling even if their town does not, legislators need to make that happen.
Some town officials have considered such an exemption, and Evergreen Park has adopted it, but that’s unlikely to survive a court challenge under the current law. We doubt that judges will allow discrimination against other establishments that want to have the machines.
Veterans’ clubs are subject to demographic booms and swoons. The World War II vets who fostered the posts are dying out; many younger vets haven’t patronized them similarly. Without the lure of video gambling, many posts may not last until their cavalry — younger leadership — arrives.
Legalizing video gambling will help revive a gasping state budget, and those who served their country deserve a similar boost. The state must let all vets’ clubs have the games. It’s the right bet.