Put State's Chips on This Plan

by Emo Philips

Note: Way back in 1992 (on June 1, specifically) The Chicago Sun-Times graciously allotted me a goodly portion of their editorial page so that I could spread some sorely-needed clarity gel on an issue that was then, and is still to this day (inexplicably, in light of this essay) debated by Chicagoans.
       Since the Illinois lottery, riverboat gambling, and legalized horse racing have already provided Illinois with jobs and revenue, I see no reason not to implement the Chicago casino proposal immediately. In fact, there are many kindred opportunities.
       The simplest of these would be the shell game. After completing an approved two-week course in slight-of-hand, the state-licensed operators could give all our public areas a taste of casino action. A personable, yet aggressive operator would cajole people into wagering who otherwise would not even have been thinking about it. The take to the state easily would dwarf the massive percentage it skims off the Lottery.
       Another opportunity for Illinois to enrich itself is through the classic "pigeon-drop" con. In this maneuver, a potential victim or "mark" finds a briefcase at the same time as do two state-employed con artists, who pretend not to know each other. They all open the briefcase and discover it is full of cash, along with some indication that the money is illicit. One of the con men runs off to "consult a trusted lawyer"; when he returns, he informs the other two that the money can be legally theirs if it is held for 30 days. The mark is elected to hold the money, in return for leaving a smaller amount of his own money with the con men as "good faith." As soon as he gives his money to the con men, they depart, and when the mark opens the suitcase...he finds it has been switched to one containing shredded newspaper!
       Sadly, a trip to the casinos is out of the question for most elderly invalids. The Land of Lincoln should service this neglected segment by sending out shady repairmen who would come right to the doors of the invalids, convince them that without expensive repairs their furnaces could blow at any moment and then cut out immediately after receiving several thousand dollars.
       To get money from well-heeled visitors to our state, I would stock Chicago's hotels and convention centers with alluring females whom I would dub "Daley Girls." A Daley Girl would lure a prosperous-looking tourist or conventioneer into a deserted stairway, alley or parking garage, where another city employee would bash him over the head. Assume an average return of $200 on each visitor (not including his watch!) and it is easy to see how Chicago's education coffers would soon overflow.
       To those who question whether our government should be involved in these admittedly more aggressive revenue pursuits, I would remind them that people are going to play the shell game anyway. They are going to fall victim to con men anyway. They are going to follow beautiful women into deserted stairwells and get their skulls bashed in anyway. At least with my proposal, the state can control these activities and can skim money from them for our school system...money that would otherwise be going to unsavory characters.