Video gambling has been active in parts of McHenry County and across Illinois for about three months now.
Our view of the machines today is the same as it always has been: It’s bad news for local families and communities.
The Illinois General Assembly approved video gaming in bars and restaurants in 2009 as a way to fund road, bridge and infrastructure work around the state. Machines didn’t become active until late last year because the state needed to put in place oversight procedures.
Counties and municipalities were allowed to opt out, and bar video gaming from their towns. The McHenry County Board voted in 2009 to ban video gaming in unincorporated areas of the county. The city of Crystal Lake followed suit. But many local towns, such as Lake in the Hills, McHenry and Harvard, opted in.
Machines allow maximum bets of $2, with maximum payouts of $500. After winnings are paid, the state gets 25 percent of the take. Cities get 5 percent. The remaining 70 percent will be split between owners of the local establishments and owners of the gaming machines.
With taxpayers revolting against higher taxes and governing bodies trying to maintain services in the wake of higher pension, health care and other costs, we can understand the allure of the new revenue that video gaming brings.
But there’s a significant downside to video gambling. It can be extremely addictive, and otherwise good people can lose more money than they or their families can afford to. Because of the nature of video gambling and its proximity to people’s homes, it is among the worst kinds.
McHenry County, and the rest of Illinois, would be better off without it.