Anti-gambling forces want local referenda in any of the places being eyed for a new casino. It’s what communities deserve, says the Rev. John Alan Boryk, a retired United Methodist pastor from Des Plaines and part of the Stop Predatory Gambling campaign. “We do have the right to express what comes into our community, and this is an issue that can change a community’s quality,” he said.
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He says both candidates for governor have indicated at some time that they think new casinos should be subject to a local referendum. It’s not part of gambling expansion legislation now, nor has it been part of recent bills.
Winnebago County voters passed an advisory referendum in 1994 to require a referendum if there’s to be a casino there. In Arlington Heights, where Arlington Park race track has been angling to get slot machines, a city-wide casino referendum passed by 33 votes in 1995.
Gambling opponents recognize that pro-casino forces will have a lot more money to spend on a pro-casino referendum campaign than opponents will. They say if the spending was roughly even, they expect public sentiment would be roughly even, and if a referendum occurred under those circumstances, they’d live with the results.
Pending casino legislation envisions new casinos in Chicago, Danville, Rockford, the Waukegan area and the South Suburbs of Chicago, as well as slot machines at race tracks.