Illinois Business Journal: Counterpoint – Should gambling be expanded in Illinois?

No, the state has more than enough gambling! by Anita Bedell

You might think the state would be flush with money from all of the gambling that has been legalized:  lottery, Internet lottery, casinos, video gambling, horse racing, off-track betting parlors, advance deposit wagering (Internet gambling on horse racing), and charitable gambling — casino nights, bingo, raffles, poker runs, pull tabs.
Yet, Illinois legislators introduce bills to expand gambling every year. Gambling interests are never satisfied and continually want more.

Casino expansion

Senators passed a massive gambling expansion bill (Senate Bill 7) in February as one part of the “grand bargain” to address the budget impasse.  The bill included a massive land-based city-owned casino for Chicago and Chicago airports.  Nine additional casinos were also included for Danville, Lake County, Rockford, south suburbs of Chicago, Williamson County winery, and four racetracks.  Senate Bill 7 was amended prior to the vote to expand video gambling and allow unlimited, progressive jackpots for casinos and video gambling.
Legislators want to pass another bill that has the same massive gambling expansion language but is not tied to the other bills in the “grand bargain.”
Remember how the first casinos were supposed to attract gamblers from out of state?  Now, legislators want more casinos so Illinois residents will stop going to other states to gamble.  They want Illinois residents to gamble and lose their money in Illinois so the state can get a “cut” of the losses!  This is a cynical plan that will harm Illinois residents and their families.
The results from a recent study show conclusively that states with more types of legal gambling have higher rates of problem gambling as well as higher rates of frequent gambling.
The costs associated with one pathological gambler are more than $13,000 per year.  There are more than 12,000 people on the self-exclusion list at Illinois casinos.  These are gamblers who have admitted that their gambling is so out of control that they are willing to be arrested and lose all of their winnings if they are caught gambling in an Illinois casino.  The cost for these known gamblers is $156 million a year.
The National Academies of Science found that “pathological gamblers engage in destructive behaviors; they commit crimes, they run up large debts, they damage relationships with family and friends, and they kill themselves.”
Gambling interests overestimate the amount of revenue from gambling and do not calculate the costs.  For every dollar gambling interests indicate is being contributed in taxes, it costs taxpayers $3 in social welfare, criminal justice, and regulatory costs, according to independent studies.

Video gambling expansion

Legislators have introduced several bills to expand video gambling.  The bills would double the number of video gambling machines at truck stops; legalize video gambling at racetracks and motorsports parks; double the maximum bet; increase the maximum prize per play; and legalize progressive jackpots of $10,000.
Illinois has more than 26,000 video gambling machines in more than 6,000 establishments — more than any other state, including Nevada.  Video gambling machines are now operating in many places other than bars and restaurants.  Illinois residents can gamble in laundromats, grocery stores, gas stations, package liquor stores, bowling alleys, tobacco stores, skating rink, flower shop, television repair shop and video gambling parlors/cafes.
Video gambling parlors, many named after women, are operating throughout the state, and account for some of the highest gambling losses.  Many municipalities are trying to prevent and/or limit these types of gambling establishments.

Internet sports

Internet Fantasy Sports gambling legislation has been introduced in both the House and the Senate.  Daily Fantasy Sports is illegal under three federal laws, and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office has ruled it is illegal gambling.
Under the proposed legislation, anyone 21 years of age and older could gamble on sports 24 hours a day, seven days a week from a smart phone, computer or other electronic devices from their home, office or dorm room.
A recent study found that Twitter users under the age of 18 who follow popular sports are being “bombarded” with gambling ads.  Studies indicate that youths who view these ads are more likely to gamble.
Illinois has more than enough opportunities for people to gambling.  Opening more casinos and expanding gambling further will lead to an increase in addiction, bankruptcy, crime, family problems and suicide.
Gambling is an unstable source of revenue that has not solved Illinois’ budget problems in the past and cannot solve the budget impasse this year.
Anita Bedell is the executive director of the Springfield-based Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems, which is also known as ILCAAAP.  The mission of ILCAAAP is to open doors to freedom from addictive behavior for individuals and families in Illinois through public information, education and legislation.  Bedell has worked for ILCAAAP since 1990 and became executive director in 1994.

This article was published in the Illinois Business Journal, May 2017

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