Letter to the Editor - How does it benefit Geneseo?

Geneseo Republic

Please allow me to explain my position on video gambling, and to give explanation of my vote against allowing it.

Three times now I’ve voted against allowing video gambling in Geneseo.  While there are valid viewpoints on both sides of this issue, my video gambling opposition comes down to this: how does video gambling better Geneseo overall?  Whenever I ask this question, the answers all come back to subjective and vague perceptions that we’re losing significant amounts of money and business by not allowing it.  I do understand that opinion, but in the big picture, how does video gambling better our entire community?  How does allowing / promoting video gambling reinforce our message that Geneseo isn’t like everyplace else, and we do value all of our many positive differences?  Sometimes we simply select a different path than most of our neighboring communities, and that’s ok.  One of Geneseo's core values is a commitment to being a desirable place to live and raise a family.  The Geneseo we now live in is built on this value, and the values, commitments, and sacrifices of the generations before us.  We must all agree they created a pretty good community, as evident by the simple fact that each of us makes the choice to live here.  Why then would we ever consider permanently allowing anything that could potentially negatively impact our home and community?  It’s important to remember that once video gambling is approved, there’s legally no option of going back and rescinding it in the future.  While video gambling can be voted down repeatedly, state law mandates that once video gambling is approved it can never be recinded.  That tells us something about the merits of video gambling when state law specifically requires its approval to be permanent.

To specifically address the perception Geneseo is losing out financially by not allowing video gambling, we do have history as a guide.  In Illinois, gambling has a long history of clearly demonstrating it’s not a long-term funding solution to anything.  Illinois started the State Lottery many years ago, the revenue from which was going to help solve all our state and school funding issues.  It didn’t.  Next came Riverboat Gambling to help solve all our state and school funding issues.  It didn’t.  Then came Dockside Riverboat Gambling and Land Based Casino Gambling to help solve all our state and school funding issues.  They didn’t.  Now it’s Video Gambling’s turn, and this will help solve our state, schools and municipalities’ funding issues.  History tells us it won’t.  Yes, our local bars and restaurants may increase their revenue some, the city will increase its revenue some, but the state along with the out-of-town machine owners will increase their revenue greatly.  The city receives only 5% of any gambling revenue, and the local business receives 32%.  62% of any gambling revenue goes to the state and the out-of-town machine owners.  So if the city receives $5,000.00 in revenue and the local business owner receives $32,000.00, the state and out-of-town machine owners will receive $62,000.00.  That entire $62,000.00 leaves Geneseo.  One could make the argument our community is losing $62,000.00 to make $37,000.00  It’s gambling’s hook, you never really gain anything you only lose.  The large percentage of any ‘new revenue’ will come directly or indirectly at the expense of our community and local area.  This is one of the reasons why 130 other large and small municipalities across Illinois prohibit video gambling.

I recognize many view allowing video gambling as no big deal, however this is still a permanent change that a large segment of our population doesn’t support.  Also, I have concerns regarding unintended consequences of this decision.  Ideally a change of this significance would only occur with clear majority community support, clear majority council support, and at a time when everyone could interact, meet, and discuss things in an uninhibited and covid-restriction free manner. However, the governmental processes were properly followed, input and opinions were shared, and a vote was taken.  After the final debate and vote on March 9th at City Council, we must come together as city leaders and as a community and move forward.  We’re all still Team Geneseo.

Sincerely,  Keith Kennett

3rd Ward Alderman – City of Geneseo

A man plays a video slot machine in a lounge at Huck's, a truck stop in Mount Vernon, Illinois. Republicans in Pennsylvania's state Senate are pressing gambling legislation that would allow slot machine-like terminals in thousands of the state's bars, restaurants and more.