Inside the entrance to Arlington Park, a young woman in a red jacket sat writing letters to Gov. Pat Quinn. They all had the same message: Sign SB 744, the gambling expansion bill that would allow racetracks to install slot machines.
The letters argued that slot machines would preserve jobs at the racetrack, save the sport of horse racing and help rescue Illinois from its fiscal crisis. The woman never signed any of the letters herself. She invited horse racing fans to sign them, and mail them in a stamped envelope addressed to the governor in Springfield. The letters were all handwritten, so the governor would feel he was receiving a personal message, even if the signature didn’t match.
Even if you didn’t sign a letter, you could take home this flier.
Dear Arlington Park Racing Fan:
The General Assembly passed a bill (SB 744) on May 31 that will authorize electronic gambling (slot machines) at Illinois racetracks. This bill will save Illinois horse racing, create new jobs and provide needed revenue to the State.
The bill needs to be signed into law by Governor Quinn. We need to tell the Governor our support of this bill and he needs to hear from individual Illinois residents. Please assist by sending a letter to the Governor.
The gambling bill was written to help the racetracks by allowing them to turn their grandstands into mini-casinos. This is only fair. For decades, horse racing had a legal monopoly on gambling, but has seen it eroded by the lottery, “riverboats” and video poker.
The tracks are expected to keep feeding the horses, paying the jockeys and housing the grooms despite competing for gambling money. Another handout highlighted Arlington’s difficulties. The track’s projected handle -- the amount of money wagered on races -- through Aug. 13 was $340 million. The actual handle was $313 million, 8 percent lower than expected.
The problem with SB 744 is that to help the racetracks, politicians demanded help for their own communities. The bill gives casinos to Chicago, Rockford, Danville and Park City. It gives slot machines to O’Hare. If SB 744 only allowed slots in racetracks, signing your name to a faux-personal letters to Quinn might persuade the governor to sign his to a bill.
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