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Opt out of gaming

To the Editor:

The Illinois legislature and the governor, having placed the state in a most tight financial situation, passed a bill, which the governor signed, authorizing gambling devices in establishments that have liquor licenses. Some McHenry County municipalities have opted out of gaming devices, others have approved them, and some have not yet acted.

In McHenry County, we went through a big-time gambling investigation in the early 1960s. McHenry County was then the gambling haven for the Chicago area. Virtually all the private clubs, including fraternal clubs, veterans’ groups, etc., in Woodstock and the rest of McHenry County had slot machines. Many of the taverns had slot machines. In addition, many taverns had jar games.

It became so blatant that a legislative commission called the Siragusa Commission came to Woodstock and conducted public hearings. The evidence strongly suggested that gambling in McHenry County involved people who were tied to the Chicago Outfit (mafia). There are some activities that are inherently against the best interest of society. Public (as opposed to private gambling, i.e., private card games) activities are not good for society because the odds are heavily stacked in favor of the house. The profits from public gambling went to the house, the Outfit.

One cannot justify gambling on the basis that it brings revenues to the state and local governments, no more than we would justify legalizing prostitution on the basis that prostitution is being taxed. We should urge our representatives in local governments to opt out.

H. Joseph Gitlin



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