Letter: Gambling law a gateway to self-destruction

By on September 3, 2009

Thanks to Gov. Quinn and our state lawmakers, Illinois has a new gambling law which allows up to five video gambling machines in local establishments where liquor is served. We will soon have mini-casinos in our favorite restaurants throughout Illinois.

There are good reasons why dozens of local municipalities are considering banning this type of gambling—also known as the crack cocaine of gambling. A leading study from Australia in 2000 concluded that for every 80 video gambling machines, $2 million was drained from and “damaged the local economy” each year.

Numerous machines make it hard to regulate, and almost impossible to monitor, to prevent underage gambling. Experts estimate between 7 to 11 percent of the teen population are already compulsive gamblers.

The average adult compulsive gambler is one year of salary in debt before they seek help. At a time when Illinois’ unemployment rate exceeds 10 percent, can we afford to exploit the citizens of this state by creating more gambling addicts?

Moreover, video gambling machines turn recreational gamblers into compulsive ones within a year, compared to nearly four years for other kinds of gambling.

There is no skill required. With the help of prepaid cards, gamblers are no longer required to put money into the machines with each play. Now, hundreds of bets are placed within an hour simply by lifting a finger.

Like a slowly spreading cancer, poker machines will sweep into the culture of Illinois. This is a recipe for human disaster.

Our state government is looking for extra revenue to cover the shortage, in part due to the out-of-control spending that continues without restraint. Maybe there is a way to do it quickly and fairly; maybe there isn’t. But one thing is for sure: Depending on the losing fortunes of the citizens of Illinois is not the answer.

David E. Smith
Executive Director
Illinois Family Institute