canada africa partner reservation Bringing the “crack cocaine of gambling” to Evanston

Bringing the “crack cocaine of gambling” to Evanston


The ‘crack cocaine of gambling’.

That’s what the investigative news site ProPublica called video gaming machines five years ago in a report on how the legalization of video games in Illinois in 2012 had worsened the state’s gambling addiction problems.

At that time, Illinois already had more locations where people could place a bet than Nevada, the traditional gambling capital of the country.

Since then, the Illinois Gaming Board reports, the number of video gaming machines in the state has increased by more than 50% – from 31,481 in March 2019 to 47,570 in March 2024.

Now Ald. Devon Reid (8th) and other members of Evanston’s Human Services Committee want to bring video games to Evanston.

They voted 5-0 in March to make revisions to a draft video game ordinance and will vote Monday on whether the proposal should go before the full City Council for approval.

None of Evanston’s neighboring communities — Wilmette, Skokie or Chicago — currently allow video gaming, but legislation being considered in Springfield could pave the way for its establishment in Chicago.

Last year, people gambling at video game terminals across the state lost $2.88 billion.

That money is divided in four ways.

The state collects 34% in taxes, keeps 29% for itself and hands over 5% to the municipalities where the devices are located.

The remaining 66% is split equally between the licensed institutions hosting the devices and the companies supplying the terminals.

Assuming that the 27 video game terminals that the proposed ordinance would allow in Evanston would generate the average revenue of terminals statewide, video games would generate approximately $78,000 in annual revenue for the city.

Under the proposed ordinance, the city would also collect up to $22,500 in licensing fees for nine video game establishments and 27 video game terminals in the city.

That means the city would get about $100,000 in new revenue, while gamblers would lose about $1.5 million a year playing video gambling equipment here.

The regulation does not provide for the possibility of spending part of the new revenue on treatment programs for residents suffering from gambling addiction.

How much of the new money would come from people already traveling out of town to gamble, and how much from residents not yet hooked on the machines, is difficult to determine.

But since the pandemic shutdown ended three years ago, revenue per terminal statewide has remained essentially flat while the number of terminals has increased 28%.

If the City Council approves the gaming deal, but residents don’t think it’s a wise decision, there is an option under state law.

All they have to do is collect petition signatures from 25% of the city’s registered voters to place a referendum on the ballot, and then get a majority of voters to vote in favor of the referendum to ban video games .

Related: More from ProPublica’s series: The Bad Bet: How Illinois Bet on Video Gambling and Lost