There were high hopes for gambling in Illinois when Governor JB Pritzker passed the Sports Wagering Act that expanded casinos and legalized sports betting in a controversial 2019 state law.
After the disaster of the Video Gaming Act of 2009, in which the state legislators borrowed money against gambling profits that failed to materialize.
There was hope that by learning lessons from the past, Illinois could expand gambling safely and reap the rewards of desperately needed funding to plug the gaping hole in the state budget.
The recent 2022 wagering report released by the Illinois Gaming Board makes a lot of the amount of revenue flowing through the economy and with good reason. There is a Gross revenue tax written into the law, so on reported revenue of $5.8 billion, the state says they have received around $1.8 billion in taxes from all gambling sources. It is also worth noting that the numbers mentioned are the combined revenue of the two gambling agencies. The State Lottery Department and The Illinois Gaming Board.
The State Lottery has been around since the ’70s. It mostly funds state educational facilities. The Illinois Gaming Board was formed in the 90s and has been responsible for all non-lottery gambling like Horsetracks, Casinos, and Video Gaming Machines.
The social costs of Illinois States recent expansion into gambling are not in the report. Though figures in the budget from the Department of Human Services suggest that $6.8 million has been set aside from the State Gaming Fund to help compulsive gamblers get their lives back on track.
In March 2022, the DHS published the first statewide review of gambling behaviours. It found that nearly 3.8% of adults in Illinois struggle with a gambling problem. That’s almost 4x the national average according to the National Centre for Problem Gambling. Whose research the DHS relied on to publish their review.
In 2020 while working with BettingUSA, their executive director Keith Whyte said
“NCPG advocates for states to earmark 1% of gambling revenues to responsible gaming and problem gambling programs.”
It would be nice to see other states have their mirror departments conduct similar experiments. Maybe use something tied to this number as a basis for future safe gambling funds.
After all, the review suggested that around 7% of all Illocians are at risk of developing a gambling habit.
A fraction of the taxes it creates could turn the odds in our favour.
The Atlantic put the social cost of a problem gambler at around $10,000 per person. With Illinois State estimates at 3.8%, the social cost of problem gamblers is around a whopping $4.5 billion.
It seems, there is plenty of money made by Illinois gaming companies and the government coffers.
Unfortunately. All at the taxpayer’s expense.