I am very pleased that we the residents of Forest Park finally have the opportunity to vote on whether or not there should be video gambling in our community. It was a lot of hard work to bring this issue to the ballot but certainly worth the effort. The right to vote on issues that affect our quality of life are precious and always worth fighting for. Now that we have reached this point, I want to share my thoughts about gambling, thoughts that I have had most of my life.

For most people in this world, money is hard to get and hold on to. I consider myself one of this crowd. Being a child of 1930s depression era Parents, we were taught to save money and be careful how you spend it so as not to waste it. I admit, as a youth I had a tough time staying on this wagon and often wished I could get back the money I blew partying (especially the morning after.) Then two things happened to me in my early 20s.

First, I was driving back from California on a shoestring budget in a very old Chevy.  For the heck of it, I decided to drive through Las Vegas just to see it even though I did not have the money to spend the night there. I had gone into a casino that I think was the MGM Grand, sat at a slot machine, put in a couple of quarters and son of a gun, I won about $40 dollars in quarters. Awesome! I sat at that machine for I don’t know how long, but used up the $40 and started to dig in my own cash when reality set in, I could not afford to continue so I got up and left. Thankfully I did not take the bait. This experience has become more and more profound to me the older I get.

The second thing that happened was getting the advice of a Boss I had during a period of successes and failures trying to start my own business. His advice was simple:  Money is a tool like any other tool, respect it and make sure you get something of real value to you when you spend it. This concept had guided me through my entire adult life.

I totally realize that the “real value” of what one spends their money on is entirely subjective and that many people gamble sensibly and have a great time doing it. I, for one am glad that my encounter with gambling took place 40 years ago and I had to go to Nevada to do it because today gambling is everywhere and just steps from my front door.  The paradigm has changed dramatically.

Thinking of my own encounter with gambling I worry about this new world of convenience gambling. These shiny and enticing machines are as easy to access as a cold glass of beer and have been designed to merge the experience and impulses of Wii or Nintendo into a profit center for the gambling industry that, in my opinion, give back nothing but a momentary adrenalin rush.

With all that said, I urge all of my fellow Forest Parkers to vote YES to ban video gambling and maintain our “small town charm.”

Steve Backman

Forest Park resident