Gaming laws in Illinois are changing. Recent legislative action means more casinos, more sports betting, and more kiosk action could be coming to a neighborhood near you.
Supporters of the shift say gambling revenue is critical for financial health. Each bet placed could help the state pay back debts, repair infrastructure, and more. And new projects could boost employment and tax income.
But some people worry about how much money gamblers will lose. And others point to real risks posed by gambling addiction.
Illinois has allowed some forms of gambling for years. You could head to a racetrack and bet on a horse, and you could plop down in front of a machine in some small mom-and-pop shops.
But if you wanted to gamble at a destination casino, or you wanted to place massive bets with thousands of your friends, you had to go out of town. Legislative changes could make that travel obsolete.
Reporters explain that a new Illinois gaming law signed in June 2019 would:
This legislation is relatively new, and it’s hard to know exactly how much the gambling industry will grow.
But analysts say that by 2021, Illinois can expect:
The legislation could also allow for online-only forms of betting, which could mean every phone in Illinois could offer some type of gaming opportunity.
You will have to be at least 18 to take advantage, so kids can’t play along. But most experts suggest these changes could result in a big boom in betting within the state.
Bills have been signed, and laws have gone into effect. But more work must be done to ensure that all runs smoothly. And legislators are already learning that the bill they designed may not do everything they hoped.
For example, a study was the first part of approving new casino operators. Administrators wanted to know which location would deliver the biggest revenue boost, and they wanted to learn more about community impact. In August 2019, that report was released, and the news wasn’t positive.
Analysts said Illinois tax structure made casinos a poor business opportunity. Owners of the casinos could expect profits in the single digits, and that was likely to make many entrepreneurs back out.
Agreeing to get a license, designing a building, hiring staff, and launching marketing are huge steps that all require risk. Few companies will do that work without the promise of money waiting on the other side.
That report could prompt legislators to make tax shifts. Or they may choose to stay put and make changes when they don’t get bids on the casino projects.
Similarly, laws regarding sports betting aren’t yet implemented, reporters say. The board is creating an application process for licenses, and rules about how to process those applications haven’t been written yet.
There is no deadline for the board to issue licenses, so it’s not clear when the first will open. It’s also not clear if the rules will change before licenses are issued.
Illinois needs money to repair infrastructure, fund critical programs, and pay debts. Gambling could, in theory, help officials to raise the funds they need. That could keep the state afloat and affluent, and it could encourage more residents to move in and call Illinois home.
Gambling could raise money through:
Every state needs more jobs and more money. If Illinois can solve this problem through gambling, some people think that’s a fine solution.
Few people want Illinois to step away from a source of revenue and employment. But some people worry about who will hold the bill for the money casinos can deliver. And others fear that gambling will cause long-term damage the state isn’t prepared to repair.
Before the casino legislation passed, Illinois residents lost a great deal of money on gambling. In 2017 alone, losses totaled $4 billion.
Gambling may seem fun, but the games are rigged in favor of the owners. It’s rare for people to walk away earning more than they have lost. Some fear that the revenue generated from gambling will come straight from the pockets of Illinois residents.
Others worry about gambling addiction. The National Council on Problem Gambling says about 1 percent of American adults qualify for a diagnosis of pathological gambling. While casinos don’t technically cause these problems, having them nearby certainly isn’t helpful.
According to Mayo Clinic, signs of problem gambling include:
Researchers say an addiction to gambling is very similar to an addiction to drugs. Both involve a hit of dopamine deep within brain cells. Whether you take a shot of whiskey or win $10, the dopamine release is the same.
In time, your mind relies on that dopamine to function properly. Without it, you feel jittery and irritable. And you may be at risk for relapse without help.
Gambling addiction treatment programs may help you control your urge to chase a win. With help, you may walk by an Illinois gambling opportunity without feeling tempted to take advantage. But these legislative changes could mean you’ll need more willpower, as you’ll be walking by many of these facilities every day.