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Group protests slot machines at Arlington Park
By Sheila Ahern | Daily Herald Staff

Nancy Duel of Arlington Heights, chairwoman of the Anti-Gambling Task Force United Methodist Church Northern Illinois Conference speaks to about 30 people in downtown Arlington Heights who are protesting slot machines at Arlington Park.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

The Rev. Tom Grey, field director for the National Coalition Against Gambling, speaks in downtown Arlington Heights Tuesday.

 

Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/31/2007 12:11 AM

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It took one day to organize a rally against Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan's plan for a new state gambling regulation board that could lead to racetrack slot machines.

Less than a mile from Arlington Park, about 30 people rallied against it, wearing buttons reading, "No more gambling" and "No slots."

"The plan would take money from addicts," said the Rev. Tom Grey, who heads the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling. "We're talking about people who sit there for hours and hours and can't stop -- not the person who spends $20 and plays slots for the lunch buffet."

Grey has been railing against legalized gambling for more than 10 years. His group believes gambling leads to an increase in crime, suicide rates and domestic and alcohol abuse.

Through his spokesman, Madigan on Monday unveiled a proposal for a completely new state gambling regulation board, possibly signaling a willingness to deal on adding more than just a Chicago casino.

Among the gambling expansions being contemplated are a Chicago casino with up to 4,000 positions, another casino for the South suburbs and slot machines at racetracks.

Arlington Heights resident Nancy Duel was at Tuesday's rally and plans to attend an Arlington Heights village board meeting next week to repeat her objections to having slots at Arlington Park.

"They're just trying to push this through," Duel told her audience. "Go home and talk to people. Call your legislators. Call the governor."

Duel also brought statements from two Arlington Heights trustees -- Tom Hayes and Tom Stengren -- who also said they too are opposed to slot machines.

In 1997, the Arlington Heights village board passed a resolution opposing slots at the racetrack. But Hayes fears Madigan's new board could take the decision-making power away from the village.

The slot machine decision belongs with the village board and the state, Hayes said.

"It would turn (Arlington) into a land-based casino," he said about adding slot machines. Mayor Arlene Mulder couldn't be reached late Tuesday for comment.

Madigan's plan for a new board would be funded by casinos and would set its own budget to ensure it had adequate staffing. The current board has long complained of inadequate staffing and funding.

The funds from the casinos to run the board would likely be on top of any tax revenues the state already enjoys from the casinos, Brown said.

The proposal for a new gaming board may also be a signal of good faith to House Republicans that Madigan would deal with their request for a capital improvement bill funded by casinos after they approve a bill to provide for mass transit funding in the Chicago area.

Madigan has said the mass transit bill must come before any capital bill, but Republican House leader Tom Cross wants the two linked.

The new legislation could be ready as soon as Thursday.