By Kelly White
The Palos Hills City Council voted last week to approve an ordinance amendment that legalizes video gambling, and which prompted some city officials to express their fear of the effect gambling could have on young people.
Aldermen on July 19 voted 6-4 to amend the city’s liquor license ordinance and allow video gambling at alcohol-serving establishments. Aldermen Martin Kleefisch (1st Ward), William Hanson (3rd Wrad, Mary Ann Schultz (5th Ward) and Mark Brachman (2nd Ward).
Several people then expressed their views about how video gambling might affect the city’s youth.
Kleefisch shared an email sent by Father Nicholas Jonas, pastor at Saints Constantine and Helen Church in Palos Hills. Jonas, who was unable to attend the meeting, is a Palos Hills resident and father of six children, and he opposes gambling.
“I would like to voice my opposition to the video poker machines…,” Jonas stated in the email. “I have seen first-hand the effects of gambling and gambling addiction. The pain that it has brought people is enormous. Furthermore, what message will we be sending to our youth?”
Jonas challenged the city to be more creative in their revenue-seeking ideas and to do so in ways that will not take advantage of people’s weaknesses and vices.
Schultz, Hanson and Alderman Joe Marrotta (4th Ward) responded to Jonas’ email with varying views on the matter.
“The comment that did strike me in that email was the ‘youth’ and what we’re representing to them,” Schultz said, adding that the City Council should be setting a good example for youths.
“I think it’s a very poor example that we’re handing to our young,” Hanson added.
Marrotta disagreed, however, believes there is little difference between recreational gambling and video gaming, and insisted that no matter the type it is still gambling. He pointed out that even churches promote and sanction gambling.
“I don’t think there’s a church around here that doesn’t have a raffle, or drawings, every year, which involves money,” Marotta said. “And I don’t know too many people that have not gone to the corner gas station to buy a lottery ticket, whether it is a scratch-off or the Lotto, and then sit back and hope that they win, regardless if they have $2 in the bank or $2 million in the bank.
Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett attempted to provide some temperance to the debate and encouraged people to take responsibility for their own actions.
“The only thing that concerns me about the issue itself is whether it’s gambling, or whether it’s alcohol or whether it’s any other vice that’s out there, my general comment to everybody is taking personal responsibility,” Bennett said. “I come from a family of 13, and no one thing is going to influence a family more than the parents and how the children are brought up and how they are taught to handle things in life.”
Bennett stressed that it every person’s responsibility to be accountable for his or her actions, and said parents have the ability to instill values into their children and guide them along the way to being a good citizen.