The Catholic Conference of Illinois today issued the following press release on the Illinois bishops' updated "A Catholic Perspective on Gambling in Illinois."
Illinois Catholic bishops urge lawmakers to reconsider
proposed gambling expansion as revenue fix
CHICAGO – Illinois Catholic bishops today released a statement on gambling, updating their 1999 publication on the issue in light of the possibility of a massive expansion of gambling to help fix the finances of both the state and the city of Chicago.
Media reports indicate that a city-owned casino in Chicago is being considered, in addition to four other casinos located throughout the state and smaller so-called “satellite” casinos in central and southern Illinois. Additionally, slot machines may be allowed at horse-racing tracks.
In the updated “A Catholic Perspective on Gambling in Illinois,” the bishops noted they drew from the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s statement about gambling as stated in paragraph 2413: "Games of chance (card games, etc.) or wagers are not in themselves contrary to justice. They become morally unacceptable when they deprive someone of what is necessary to provide for one's needs and those of others. The passion for gambling risks becoming an enslavement.”
Gambling is not immoral in itself, they noted, and can often be used for legitimate fundraising purposes.
However, the bishops also recognize the increasing pervasiveness of gambling in society, as riverboat casinos, the lottery, and video gambling have been authorized by the state during the past 40 years.
“For it seems that in our state, to use the language cited above, ‘the passion for gambling’ is becoming ‘an enslavement’ both for individual persons and for society,” they wrote.
They encouraged an examination of conscience, both on an individual and state level, observing that government should not look to gambling as a revenue fix.
“It is important to commit to a fair system of taxation to support public programs, as it is not healthy to rely upon gambling as an alternative,” they wrote.
They also called for transparency of financial records of gambling enterprises doing business with the state, as well as a stop to gambling-related advertising that targets the poor.
“We must have a public examination of the impact of gambling upon the poor and upon the political process itself,” they wrote.
The bishops are also asking Catholic institutions to "openly examine and debate the impact of gambling in their fundraising."
The Catholic Conference of Illinois was created in 1969 to serve as the public policy voice of the Illinois bishops and the six dioceses of the state: Belleville, Chicago, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield-in-Illinois.