It was just in August that Mayor Anthony Calderone told Forest Parkers that he would not be bringing the issue of video gambling before the village council “any time soon.” Now it is October and Calderone is bringing the issue not before the council for a vote but before citizens for their opinions in two public forums.
We get that public forums are not a certain precursor to a council vote. We are pleased that in a town where the mayor leads too often without listening well that he is inviting public input. But, yes, we worry that this is the start of the move toward allowing video gambling in Forest Park restaurants and bars.
And, simply put, we are opposed to state sanctioned gambling. Always have been. Always will be. Gambling is a sucker’s game. And when the state and village are taking a cut, we’ve got a government that ought to be looking out for citizens instead fleecing its constituents. That is just wrong.
But that broad take on government-backed gambling is just the macro basis for our opposition to Forest Park overturning its current ban on video gambling.
Here are the hometown focused objections:
In an effort to spur consideration of video gambling in town, a batch of our local bars and restaurants have already filed applications with the state agency which OKs actual gambling licenses. According to our reporting, four of those establishments failed to document, as required on the application, any campaign contributions they had made to the mayor/liquor commissioner over the past two years. A fifth establishment, Healy’s West Side, made a serious mish mash in simply declaring its ownership structure. That’s a particular problem since Village Commissioner Mark Hosty alternately claims to be the owner or simply a manager of the place. There’s a reason the state asks if an applicant is also a public official. It deserves a square answer.
So if establishments can’t even fill out the application forms honestly, it gives us pause about the whole enterprise of state/village sanctioned gaming.
While we understand that bar and restaurant owners are eager for a new revenue stream, especially in challenging economic times, we believe they are selling themselves and Forest Park short in believing they need video gambling to compete. Over 15 years, Forest Park has reimagined its Madison Street corridor as a citywide destination for good food and conviviality in a comfortably sophisticated setting. Video poker machines in every corner aren’t consistent with the successful marketing job Forest Park rightly takes pride in.
Finally, we’d note the sheer volume of machines and $2 bets it is going to take in order to make either a bar owner or his partners at village hall anything near enough to make this gambit palatable.
So it is important, if you seek to preserve the success that Forest Park has built in becoming a destination that you turn out for the public forums on this subject. Don’t let short term gains by short sighted business people turn back the clock on Forest Park. And, also, let’s not accept any trial offers proposed by officials that suggest that a few bars might get a few machines for a short time as an experiment. There is no way back from that path. It is a ruse, plain and simple.