Pubdate: Fri, 10 Feb 2012
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2012 Sun-Times Media, LLC
Author: Rich Miller
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Outfit crime boss Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno was sentenced to 25 
years in prison this week. Sarno ordered the bombing of a business 
that was encroaching on his illegal video poker racket.

I'm glad that Sarno's going to prison. I'm also happy that Illinois 
finally wised up and legalized video poker machines for taverns, 
fraternal clubs and truck stops.

A legal, regulated video poker industry means wise guys like Sarno 
will be put out of business. Illinois' ridiculous "For Amusement 
Only" tax stickers on poker machines will finally come to an end once 
the legal, regulated machines are put into place. Nobody plays video 
poker at a tavern purely for their own amusement. They play because 
they're hoping to win an illegal jackpot.

I have no fundamental problem with people who want to plunk quarters 
into a poker machine while they sip a beer and watch a game at their 
corner tap. They're not criminals.

The problem, you see, isn't video poker.

The problem is that the Outfit has been able to rake in untold 
millions of dollars while Illinois turned a mostly blind eye. Yeah, a 
few guys with bent noses and a handful of tavern owners were busted 
once in a while, but nothing ever stopped.

Legalization is the only proven way to cut the gangsters out. 
Illinois quickly killed off the illegal numbers rackets when the 
state started its own lottery, for instance.

On Friday, Gov. Pat Quinn will hold a press conference to "encourage 
people to support education and capital construction programs by 
playing Powerball," according to his office. Before legalization, the 
numbers games just lined the pockets of violent criminals. Now, they 
help fund schools and roads.

Legalization also worked when the United States decided to end 
Prohibition. The Mafia doesn't control the liquor industry, 
multinational corporations do. And whatever else you can say about 
them, rival corporate CEOs rarely bomb one another.

It's never easy to legalize a "vice."

The opponents of legalized video poker are still screaming about the 
"massive expansion" of sinful gambling it represents, as if the tens 
of thousands of machines that illegally pay out somehow don't exist.

While most opponents are quite sincere, all their opposition really 
ends up doing is helping the mob. People are going to gamble. If a 
game of chance is illegal, the mob will find a way to make money. 
Lots of money. And then other people are going to be hurt, or killed, 
or bombed or bribed or whatever. Bet on it.

Lately, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has been pushing 
hard to lower the penalties for possessing small amounts of 
marijuana. There's no reason, she says, to keep locking people in 
steel cages with violent criminals simply because they've decided to 
put something into their own bodies.

Preckwinkle appears to be making progress with Chicago Police Supt. 
Garry McCarthy, who said this week that he's "all in favor" of 
issuing tickets for possessing small amounts of pot.

And while this is a necessary first step, it doesn't go nearly far 
enough. It would be like decriminalizing a can of beer instead of 
ending Prohibition, or handing out small fines for possessing a 
numbers ticket in the 1960s. It doesn't stop the real, festering 
societal problem of the control of vice by pathologically violent criminals.

If you truly want to hurt the Outfit and the street gangs, the only 
proven method is to legalize, regulate and tax their vice products.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom