Video Gaming Spins Controversy

In March  2018, Orland Park residents voted on two advisory referenda on video gaming. This occurred as Sears, one of the founding anchor stores in Orland Square Mall, held its liquidation sale before closing its doors. Village sales tax revenues declined about $1.2 million in 2017, prompting the consideration of new sources of village funding. 

The controversy over video gaming remains heated with the residents of Orland Park, Palos Heights or Palos Park. Supporters of video gaming claim that a third of the sales-tax loss could be recouped annually by video gaming revenues. Opponents argue that video gaming has a high potential for addiction which can cause financial distress and domestic violence in families. Other objections include promoting local businesses that run contrary to community values and encouraging a regressive form of taxation that harms the underprivileged. 

Screens: the common factor

Perhaps a deeper issue underlies both the concern about lost retail sales and the renewed interest in local gambling. Both video gaming and online sales that are destroying classic brick-and-mortar retail stores rely on computer technology. Is it possible that we community members are becoming more addicted to “screens” (electronic devices) which may be the real force eroding our values? 

Don’t get me wrong, I love screens. In fact, I compose this post on my laptop computer, which I purchased online. In the background, I listen for text-message pings from my smartphone and watch for alerts from my Facebook page. Last night, I played Scrabble with my wife on her tablet as we binge watched a TV series on Netflix and a documentary on YouTube. Later, I watched LinkedIn tutorials on SEO and social-media marketing, both screen-focused strategies to promote corporate sales.

As we debate the issue of video gaming, let’s ask ourselves honestly the following questions. Is video gaming the problem or a symptom of a deeper problem? Is video gaming truly more addictive or potentially harmful than smartphones, smart computers, and smart TVs? Is gambling truly more problematic than screen-based shopping or ordering fast food online?

It’s time for us to take a long look at the big screen here. The so-called “Amazon Effect,” which left profound gouges in the bedrock of retails sales, will not ebb soon. The texting-social-media obsession shows no sign of abating – swiping, Skyping and typing replaced the art of conversation. And the McDonald’s-influenced expectation of instant gratification and consumerism looms more super-sized than ever.

Addressing Video Gaming

No simple solutions to the serious problems surrounding video gaming exist. However, I would like to suggest a good old-fashioned approach to solving problems – illuminate, evaluate and innovate. First, we as a community need to view each issue with an open mind. Harshly condemning one potentially addictive behavior while quietly condoning another only incites anger. Second, we must weigh option costs and benefits objectively.  Although there are disadvantages to a tax-revenue source like video gaming, the advantages of providing family services to communities cannot be ignored. Finally, we need to generate creative, new solutions to promote our community interests while keeping our core values intact. How about raising community funds with a good old-fashioned ice cream social?