Tom Swoik versus Thomas Grey: Is Legalized Gambling a Good Bet?

Who: Paul Simon Public Policy Institute
What: Tom Swoik versus Thomas Grey: Is Legalized Gambling a Good Bet? (debate)
When: 2010-10-26
Tom Swoik versus Thomas Grey: Is Legalized Gambling a Good Bet?
Leah Williams Wright

The state of Illinois has landed itself in a massive financial deficit. Whether legislators should gamble with broadening legalized gaming to close revenue shortfalls is the subject of an upcoming debate.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute will conduct Is Legalized Gambling a Good Bet?, a debate about whether Illinois should expand gambling opportunities to increase state revenue. The debate, set to occur Tuesday, October 26 at 7 p.m. in the SIU Student Center's Ballroom B, is expected to be hotly contested.

The two debate participants will both bring knowledgeable stances.

Tom Swoik is the executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, a nonprofit organization that represents seven of the nine gaming operations in Illinois. He is also a former staffer to the Illinois Gaming Board. The businesses represented by the Illinois Casino Gaming Association entertain millions of people yearly. According to the organization's website, casinos also provide a huge boost to local and state economies and create thousands of jobs. In 2008, the Illinois Casino Gaming Association spent nearly $145.5 million with local vendors and suppliers to stimulate tourism. Local businesses have more customers because more out-of-state and out-of-town customers are visiting to gamble at casinos.

In addition to boosting a community's economy, Illinois casinos have a reputation of directly giving back. In 2008, Illinois casinos donated more than $23 million to various charities and civic organizations.

The Illinois Casino Gaming Association also promotes responsible gambling by funding a twenty-four/seven helpline and referral service for people with gambling addictions, among other problem-solving efforts.

In the other corner, Thomas Grey of Rockford, Illinois, represents the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation (formerly the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling). Grey is the foundation's field director, and his position allows him to understand the effects of gaming expansion and the impact of continued reliance of states on gambling.

The National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling was formed in 1994 with a mission to compile information about the "adverse personal, social, economic, and public-health impacts of gambling," and to disseminate that information "to citizens and policy-makers at the local, state and national levels," according to its website. Through its education measures, the Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation aims to help focus on the dark side of gambling and casinos.

Grey and his organization argue that gambling statistics on the internet are tainted because much of the information is compiled by businesses and organizations that generate a profit from gaming. Gambling, the website states, destroys lives, and there are many devastating social costs of gambling. Casinos, they further argue, prey upon customers and create more harm than good.

Illinois must answer numerous political questions before it decides to expand gambling, including how, and how much, to regulate it.

"It's an important issue," Matt Baughman of the Simon Institute said. "You take in consideration what gambling does to the community, but also realize the importance of personal debt and the effects gambling could have on you personally."

Many Simon Institute lectures this semester are geared toward generating discussions about— and to help the Carbondale community better understand— local, state, and national issues.

"We want [the debate] to be insightful, and [hope] that people will learn something that they didn't know before they came," Baughman said.

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who: Paul Simon Public Policy Institute

what: Tom Swoik versus Thomas Grey: Is Legalized Gambling a Good Bet? (debate)

where: Student Center Ballroom B

when: Tuesday, October 26