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Video Gambling Opposition In Illinois Uses Same Outdated Arguments

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Lawmakers in the state of Illinois believed that it was time to catch up with many other states around the US and legalize video gambling. It is an old topic to most, but for the opposition of the expanded gambling in Illinois, it came down to the same outdated arguments.

Arguing as if it was 1950 and the country had not been educated about the potential dangers and advantages to expanding gambling, members of the Coalition Against Neighborhood Gambling paraded themselves in front of the Illinois Gaming Board on Tuesday and spoke the same arguments that have been used for fifty years.

"It is imperative that those charged with regulating video gambling in Illinois thoroughly understand that video poker has left a wake of crime and bankruptcy in every state that has legalized it," said Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer.

That is a chilling thought, bankruptcy and crime are words that invoke fear. The only problem is that it is unfounded. There are many states in the country that have legalized video poker and are experiencing millions of dollars in revenue from taxes on the games.

Then, Gainer went on to tell the Board her own opinions on gambling, opinions that, if not corrected, could lead residents of Illinois to believe they were fact.

"I believe the projected revenue increase of $300 million is an exaggeration bordering on fantasy," said Gainer, "There is a finite amount of money that people are willing to spend on gambling, and while video gambling may attract many of those dollars, it will be at the expense of tax revenue collected from the lottery, casinos or racetracks....Essentially, we will be robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Recently, Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania, California, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and several other states have expanded their gambling options. In each case, opponents claimed there would be more crime, more bankruptcy, more overblown projected revenue figures. Most of these states have reported none of that, and have actually exceeded revenue projections.

"It is a fact that organized crime is known to gravitate towards gambling and other ancillary businesses," said John Pastuovic, Director of Public Affairs for the Chicago Crime Division. This is a true fact, however, the organized crime tends to gravitate towards areas where there is no legal gambling, this way they can provide a service to customers who have no legal places to gamble.

Illinois is just the latest state to have the expanded gambling debate, but as the Coalition Against Neighborhood Gambling showed on Tuesday, the opposition remains stuck in the past, using stale arguments that no longer apply to modern day gambling.

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