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Report: Video gambling grows in Illinois

November 26, 2018

CHICAGO — Video gambling has seen significant growth in Illinois, with revenues increasing by more than 75 percent in just the last three years, a new state report concludes.

The report released last month by the state’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability found video gambling racked up a net income of $1.4 billion in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, generating about $70 million in tax revenue for local governments.

Video gambling is the driving force behind overall gambling revenues that reached a record high last year in Illinois, The Chicago Tribune reported.

Chicago has banned video gambling, but the report shows there are about 11,000 individual gaming machines in the city’s metropolitan area. That’s the equivalent of adding nine casinos.

Illinois’ first legal gambling machines were rolled out only six years ago. Now, video gambling terminals have popped up in bars, truck stops and pizzerias.

Video gambling’s success is helping offset the “relatively stagnant performances” of the lottery, horse-racing and river gambling, the report said.

Illinois’ riverboat casinos have seen their revenues decrease by more than 15 percent since video gambling machines were introduced in 2012.

But some Illinois business owners argue the popularity of video gambling is diluting the market.

Juventina Mesa, of La Cabana Mexican Restaurant in Melrose Park, said most of her customers come in to gamble on the restaurant’s video poker and slot machines. But she said business isn’t as good as it used to be since there now are five businesses in the strip mall that have machines.

Illinois lawmakers are considering whether to expand gambling in the state by adding sports, sports fantasy and online betting. But the report concludes these ventures would need to appeal to new consumers in order to make a difference in the government’s earnings.

“The state could have a large expansion of gambling, but yet have little new tax revenues to show for it,” the report said.

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