Updated: December 11, 2012 2:02AM
With Illinois facing strangling debt, there’s a natural desire to rush toward a solution. When a fire breaks out, every door that leads outside looks attractive.
But whether it was personal reticence or political caution, we’re glad Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois Gaming Board insisted that the process of implementing video gambling was careful and orderly.
Closely checking the backgrounds of the operators and vendors of the machines was necessary because the business has been rife with crooks for decades, and the state has to do all it can to keep them out of the new ball game.
So, 3½ years since it was legalized, video gambling began this week at bars, restaurants and veterans posts across the state. Sixty-five initial places to gamble started their machines, with none yet in Lake County although a number of communities — Waukegan, Antioch, Fox Lake among them — have approved video gaming. Many towns, including Chicago, aren’t allowing it, unhappy with their cut (5 percent) and/or leery of the social costs of such easy access to gambling.
Gambling backers in the Legislature originally guessed that as many as 45,000 machines would be installed, bringing in anywhere from $300 million to $530 million a year for a $30 billion public works program. But it won’t be nearly that many machines or that much annual revenue, at least for a while.
The gaming board has limited manpower to check on all the players, so only 278 machines at 65 sites were running on opening day, with another 2,000 locations being assessed. We’re not fretting about the slow start. It’s the better way.
Quinn, who claims a personal distaste for gambling, has hinted that he already wants to change the law so town officials must vote for video gambling instead of opting out. That’s a harder choice, and it’s unnecessary monkeying with the law before we have a chance to see it work.
As we’ve said before, we’re uneasy about video gambling because it’s widespread and so easily accessible, but it’s hard to oppose it when Illinois allows about every other form of gambling. A bankrupt state cannot be proud. It needs to find every dollar it can.