CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Casinos in the state of Illinois want to keep their roulette wheels spinning 24 hours a day, but a leading national gambling critic warns that round-the-clock gambling could be disastrous for the Land of Lincoln.
The Illinois Gaming Board at its Sept. 19 meeting is set to consider allowing casinos in Illinois to operate continuously. John W. Kindt says it’s a bad bet for Illinois taxpayers.
“Slot machines are job killers,” said Kindt, an emeritus professor of business and legal policy at the U. of I. “Every slot machine takes at least one job out of the consumer economy because people aren’t buying cars, refrigerators and the other necessities of life. They’re gambling all that money away. Staying open all day and all night year-round just intensifies this problem.”
Currently, casinos in Illinois have to close for at least two hours per day. But the ability to operate around the clock is an extra opportunity for casinos to take advantage of sleep-deprived, intoxicated or addicted gamblers, said Kindt, a senior editor of the United States International Gambling Report, a six-volume series released between 2008 and 2013, and the author of the 2013 book “The Gambling Threat to World Public Order and Stability: Internet Gambling,” the third in a series of three books on Internet gambling.
“There’s a reason why there are no clocks in casinos,” Kindt said. “Now they want to make it even easier for people to gamble away their life savings. There are reasons why bars don’t stay open 24 hours a day – why should casinos be any different?”
Casino operators cite increased competition from video gambling and slot machines at truck stops and bars for their renewed push for the option to stay open the extra two hours.
“My response to that would simply be that gambling at truck stops and bars ought to be cut back to reasonable daylight hours, or at least until midnight,” Kindt said. “Instead of expanding gambling, we need to start restricting it. A good first step would be rejecting this push to keep casinos open 24/7, and then move on to curbing these obvious abuses at bars and truck stops.”
Slot machines also keep people in the bars drinking long past when they should have gone home.
“That makes the drunken driving aspect of it significantly worse, which inevitably leads to more taxes for the people of the state of Illinois to pay for all the extra social costs associated with drinking and gambling,” he said. “The bars love it, because it keeps people in the bars longer, but it just makes everything else a lot worse.”
For a cash-strapped state, it’s a recipe for a continued economic downturn, Kindt said.
“We are creating all these new huge social problems, which puts pressure on taxpayer dollars,” he said. “And secondly, we’re draining jobs away from the consumer economy, because slot machines don’t create jobs – you just dust them off, plug them in and watch them drain away money.”
According to Kindt, both the owners and operators of slot machines take 35 percent apiece of the gross revenue, leaving the remaining 30 percent to the state to divide among itself and the municipality where the casino is located.
“What that means is that the state of Illinois only makes $30,000 on every $100,000 a slot machine rakes in,” he said. “And local municipalities only get a small cut of that $30,000. In other states, the tax rate on slot machines is in the 70 to 90 percent range. In Canada, it’s 100 percent – the Canadian government just pays a licensing fee to the owners of the machines. That’s the way it should be done.”
But it’s not, and there is no reason why the slot-machine owners should be legally skimming 35 percent of the take away from tax revenues, Kindt said.
“For the state to keep siphoning 35 percent to owners of the machines and then another 35 percent for the operators – the truck stops, the bars – makes it a total giveaway of taxpayer dollars to special interests who are destroying the state’s economy by reducing our overall tax revenues, creating huge new social problems and killing our jobs,” he said.
State gambling regulators have considered the issue of round-the-clock gambling three times since gambling on riverboats was legalized in 1990, and each time it has come up, it has been rejected, Kindt said.
“Just like baseball, it should be three strikes and you’re out,” he said. “A bad idea doesn’t get better over time.”