Increased gambling doesn’t come without cost

May 9, 2019

Will Illinois expand legal gambling?

It seems likely. The governor wants it. As you travel around, signs just about everyplace tout video gambling. Once the idea had been to create a little bit of revenue for existing restaurants and taverns. What few expected was the creation of businesses whose main stream of revenue would be gambling.

Legalized sports gambling could be huge. While few of us know enough to intelligently handicap a horse, millions more feel they know enough about baseball, football or basketball to beat the odds.

But exactly what gambling will be expanded is a battle. One story carried across the state wires indicated Chicago only backs sports gambling if it gets a casino. Since a casino in Chicago would automatically become the giant in the room, downstate casinos would be wary of it.

Horse racing tracks would like more gambling options at their locations — sort of becoming racinos. Horse racing has been decimated by the casinos. Witness the closing of Balmoral in nearby Crete. Casinos would not want to lose the business back to the racing sites.

As the bill heated up in Springfield, the Wallethub think tank released its annual report on the nation and gambling. Illinois was ninth in the nation among the states for the percentage of adults with gambling disorders. It was, sadly, first in gambling-related arrests per capita.

That figure means some Illinoisans have such a gambling addiction that they turn to crime — forging, embezzling, stealing.

As we rush toward the government revenue, our hope is that we not forget who is being run over in that process. Make sure treatment is fully funded.