Illinois is Slipping into Addiction
Illinois is slipping away into the depths of gambling. Innocent eyed reporters who believe everything they are told by a nice suit, are reporting on the “hot hand” the video gambling machines have in the state. There are 24,000 of them in the originally intended small businesses, but also in businesses set up specifically for the five allowed machines, with drinks as an incidental sideline. The state taxes the machines at a low 30%, with 25% to the state and 5% to the local government. That leaves 70% to the owner and the machine provider. Chains have developed. Dotty’s has 60 locations state wide that look like coffee shops, and have over 350 employees statewide.
But there is another way of looking at those same statistics. Dr. John W. Kindt, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, points out that the 24,000 gambling machines spread over 5600 mini-casinos around the state is more than the state of Nevada has. The machines, if gathered into casinos would be twenty more added to the more than a dozen existing casinos. So, it is no wonder the machines are bringing in money to the state. The 30% tax rate may be the lowest in the country, with most casinos paying 35 to 60% of gross receipts in taxes after payouts to “winners.” This is a tremendous loss to the state which is trying to finance repair of roads and bridges.
From a different angle, in the four years the machines have received $34 billion in bets, a sum nearly equal to the $36 billion in one years’ state budget. Kindt points out that Canadian governments keep all the receipts and pay the casinos a management fee. It is, however, hard to see how that could work over 5600 locations. It remains to be seen how much of the $811 million the state has received over four years will be directed to roads and bridges.
The saddest unmentioned result is the thousands who have become addicted, lost their liquid assets and gone into debt to feed the machines. No one seems to be paying attention except for the few stalwart opponents (e.g. Kathy Gilroy and Dr.Kindt).
Becky Yerak. “Video Gambling has hot hand in Illinois,” The Chicago Tribune
, October 22, 2016. See also Phil Ciciora, “Four Years later, what effect has expanded video gambling had on Illinois?” University of Illinois News Bureau,
October 20, 2016.