CHICAGO (CBS) — In a new survey, the Chicago Crime Commission says voters throughout the state are against the expansion of casino gambling, as a bill now on Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk would authorize.
The bill approved by both houses of the General Assembly would create five new casinos, including one within the Chicago city limits. New casinos would also open in Lake County, the southern suburbs, Rockford and Danville.
The bill would also permit slot machines at racetracks, and at O’Hare and Midway international airports.
The Crime Commission, which itself is pushing against the bill, said a majority in almost all demographic groups in its survey were against the bill.
After reading a series of statements in the survey total of 56 percent of survey respondents thought gambling expansion would be bad for Illinois, while only 32 percent thought it would be good for the state, the survey said.
Those who identify with the Democrats were against the bill by a margin of 5 percent, while among those who identify with the Republicans, 63 percent of respondents were against the bill. Among independents, 61 percent were against the bill.
The only demographic group in which a majority supported gambling expansion was 18- to 34-year-olds, the Crime Commission said.
The number of respondents who were against gambling expansion constituted a majority before reading the survey, with 55 percent against and 35 percent in favor, the Crime Commission said.
“When asked, Illinois voters also said they feel the gambling expansion will have a negative impact on the quality of life in the State and, that it will add to human misery, without offsetting financial benefits,” Crime Commission chairman and president J.R. Davis said. “Survey results also indicate voters are deeply troubled that the legislation does not provide for enough investigators to deal with the issues created by a massive expansion of gaming in the state.”
The survey also found that 61 percent of respondents felt the state was on the wrong track, and that only 3 percent had a “very favorable” view and only 22 percent had a “somewhat favorable view” of the Illinois General Assembly.
Fifty-five percent of respondents said the gambling expansion would negatively impact quality of life in the state, 65 percent agreed that state lawmakers were dropping the ball by failing to increase the number of investigators to monitor the gambling expansion, and 55 percent agreed that money from taxes on casino gambling would not offset the human problems that gambling creates.
The Chicago Crime Commission has also taken its own position against gambling expansion. Earlier this month, Davis called the bill “dangerous,” and warned that federal prosecutors “should plan for a constant stream of federal corruption indictments against government officials, gambling operators and members of the Crime Syndicate.”
He added that the move essentially puts Chicago gaming in untested and most likely politically-connected hands.
Overall, the Crime commission said earlier this month, the gambling expansion will make Chicago “the Las Vegas of the Midwest.”
But the measure also has its strong backers. The Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs, for one, says the package could provide millions of dollars to county fairs, soil and water conservation districts, cooperative extensions and other entities.