Video gambling brings about social concerns

When the state and municipalities considered whether to allow video gambling as a revenue source, there were people who voiced concerns about gambling addiction and other social ills.

Many people said crime would increase because of the expansion in gambling, but municipalities haven’t seen that.

Lake in the Hills Village Administrator Gerald Sagona said he was not aware of any problems brought to the village because of video gambling.

“No one is forced to play. ... It’s the same as the lottery,” Sagona said. “A lot of people buy lottery tickets, which is a form of gambling, too.”

There also are concerns about addiction problems.

The Illinois Council on Problem Gambling receives 120 to 130 calls a month to its hotline. However, in the council’s August report, Administrator Bill Johnson said that only three of the callers identified video gambling as the issue.

The first call the council received about video gambling was in February, Johnson said.

“At this point, it’s relatively new,” he said.

The council helps connect people with resources or avenues for treatment to help them with gambling addiction.

The state’s gambling addiction hotline, which receives about 100 calls a month, has received 30 calls related to video gambling since July 1, when the state began tracking video gambling calls, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Januari Smith said.

“Illinois predicted there would be an increase based on trends in other states where video gambling has been implemented and an increase in help-seekers calling the helpline had been recorded,” Smith said in an email. “Currently the data collected in Illinois on video gambling is not sufficient to determine an absolute increase or decrease.” 

There are people who still have concerns about the social effects of gambling.

Kathy Gilroy is a Villa Park resident, but she has attended local meetings, including those of the Woodstock and McHenry city councils, where she spoke about the problems video gambling can bring.

Gilroy said casinos have self-exclusion programs, where people could have themselves put on a list to keep them out of casinos.

“What’s to keep them from going to the local pizza parlor that has slot machines in it?” Gilroy said.

She said that people with a gambling addiction can ruin their family financially, might commit white-collar crime such as embezzlement, or write bad checks.

People who spend their money on gambling might not spend as much on groceries or other expenses, which would hurt other businesses, Gilroy said.

“Money isn’t dropping from heaven, it’s being repurposed,” Gilroy said.

Priscilla Zoller, 54, of Port Barrington, gambles on the Hermann’s Rest A While Bar and Grill video gambling terminals with a strict $20 budget.

Concerns about people having addictions to losing their paychecks are legitimate, Zoller said.

“I’ve seen people come in here that just keep putting money in, hit the cash station, and go back to gambling, hit the cash station again ... and that’s not good,” she said.

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