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Video poker: bad bet

Video poker is turning out to be a riskier gamble than Governor Quinn and state legislators thought when they legalized it earlier this year, looking for easy money to fund a public works budget.

They were betting it would add $300 million in state revenues per year.  That now seems unlikely.  Their September 11 deadline for poker video rules from the gaming board has come and gone, the board insisting it’s a far more complex process (involving investigating and approving each proposed location) than the politicians realized, with a much longer timeline.

In the meantime, dozens of towns are considering taking advantage of the law’s provision allowing local bans on video gambling.  DuPage County has banned it in unincorporated areas, and Cook and Will Counties are considering similar actions.

The Tribune just found that 60 percent of Illinois residents oppose video gambling. 

Expanding gambling always looks like the perfect quick-fix solution when budgets are tight, U. of I. business professor John Kindt told the New York Times, “but in the end it so often proves to be neither quick nor a fix.”

Today a number of anti-gambling groups are launching Operation Let The Public Decide, aimed at holding public hearings on video poker in communities around the state — and working to keep in place the ordinance that bans video poker in Chicago.

Ald. Joe Moore, County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, Jane Ramsey of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Rev. Larry Hilkemann of the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodists, Nancy Duell of the Anti-Gambling Task Force, and Rev. Tom Grey of Stop Predatory Gambling were slated for a City Hall announcement this morning. 

Gainer has called the $300 million revenue projection “an exaggeration bordering on fantasy.”  Indeed, the Times says Illinois has reported a $166 million drop in gambling-related revenue in the past year.  And much money spent on video poker is money that won’t be spent on the lottery or in casinos.

In Elgin, the League of Women Voters is calling on the city council to ban video poker; the city is studying the issue.  LVW’s Lauren Bault “said gambling is a regressive way to raise revenue that targets the poor. She also said gambling has a low-growth potential and video poker encourages people to play longer, faster and bet more,” the Daily Herald reports.

“Gambling is not a source of revenue that is equitable, progressive, stable and responsible,” Bault said.

In unrelated news, video poker lobbyist Joe Berrios was slated for Cook County Assessor by the Cook County Democratic Party, chaired by video poker lobbyist Joe Berrios.

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Category: gambling, state budget

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