By ANITA BEDELL
The News-Gazette had two articles about the recently released report, "Wagering in Illinois, 2017 Update."Video gambling began in Champaign in October, 2012, at two establishments. Area gamblers are now losing more than $1,000,000 a month in the video gambling machines at 54 establishments in Champaign.
In total, more than $45.26 million was lost gambling in these machines during the past five years.
According to University of Illinois studies, more than $3.8 billion was lost statewide, resulting in over 126,500 lost jobs while creating new gambling addicts and new taxpayer costs, paralleling drug addiction. Local governments receive a nickel for every $1 lost in the machines, and the state receives a quarter. A whopping 70 percent is split by owners/operators, which is normally 5 to 20 percent in other states.
While some call this "entertainment," problem and pathological gamblers are gambling out of desperation, trying to win back the money they lost in the machines.
Increasing the number of video gambling establishments and making gambling more convenient will also increase costs to the community in terms of addiction, bankruptcy, crime and embezzlement.
Armed robberies at video gambling parlors in Champaign, Decatur and Springfield were reported in the media this year. Last week, three video gambling establishments were burglarized in Springfield, with a substantial amount of damage and money taken.
A new study on the effects of access to gambling and crime was conducted by economists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The study found that being near at least one video gambling establishment was associated with an average 6.7 percent increase in property crime and a 7.5 percent spike in violent crime in areas (primarily) around Chicago. The crime was "mostly driven by problems related to problem gambling and addiction," according to the authors of the study.
In Springfield, home of the most video gambling machines in the state, general merchandise sales tax receipts are dropping.
Millions of dollars are lost in video gambling machines rather than used to purchase appliances, cars, food and merchandise that generate money for other local businesses.
Other Illinois communities are enacting moratoriums or banning video gambling, and all local governments need to emulate them.
Anita Bedell is executive director of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems (ICAAAptP).