I’d always been against the expansion of legalized gambling because, along with gluttony, gambling was one of the few vices I didn’t enjoy. Personal feelings aside, should we allow video poker in Forest Park’s bars and restaurants?
Marty Sorice, owner of Blueberry Hill and partner in the Shortstop Lounge and Circle Inn, thinks video gambling is the shot in the arm our slumping bar business needs. Tavern business is down for three reasons, Sorice says: a “draconian” state tax on liquor, the smoking ban and the tanking economy. He sees gaming machines as the kind of attraction a shot-and-beer place needs to keep backsides on the barstools.
Many of these backsides are fleeing Forest Park, Sorice said, to communities that are allowing video poker games and ignoring the smoking ban. He’s losing hundreds of dollars daily to these renegade bars.
Gamblers at these places are, in turn, losing heavily to the illegal poker machines. The legal machines, by contrast, would be low-stakes. The maximum bet is $2 and they return an average of 80 percent of the money wagered. It would take a degenerate gambler eight hours to lose $300, which is way too slow for your serious losers.
Besides providing revenue to bar owners, the money from the machines would help rebuild roads. Moreover, they provide entertainment. Sorice says that bars can’t exist without activities: pool tables, darts and golf machines. Unlike these pursuits, video gambling would not likely cause trouble. The gambler is playing against a machine, not the guy who “accidentally” bumped him during his last shot.
Sorice said video poker requires minimal skill and provides “mindless fun.” There’s something to be said for mindless fun. Recently, my wife and I made our first-ever visit to a casino. We were in that Sodom and Gomorrah known as Dubuque, Iowa, and heard the siren song of the slot machine.
When we walked in, the first thing that hit us was cigar smoke. Iowa still allows indoor smoking. We started feeding our wad of singles into the slots. And winning. We were more than a sawbuck ahead at one point. However, we stuck to our agreement and quit when we were back to even. Wow, a half-hour of heart-pounding action for free.
So, now that I’m an advocate for legalized gambling, I wanted the village government’s take on video poker. A village official acknowledged that the machines would help pay for state-funded capital improvements to Forest Park, but said they haven’t had any formal discussions on whether to allow them.
The mayor and commissioners face a tough call: when a town like Rosemont bans video poker machines it’s harder to justify them to the morality police. I can only hope that we truly are a business-friendly community and that someday I can draw to an inside straight on Madison Street.