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Don't suppress video gambling machine details

Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

For years, organized crime profited from illegal video gambling machine operations in Illinois. The Gaming Board chairman said it was “almost impossible” to keep the mob out of video gambling. That's why transparency is needed now that video gambling machines are legal. 

Currently, monthly video gambling reports are issued and posted on the Illinois Gaming Board’s website. Reports list the names of each establishment, amount of money gambled, amount won, net wagering activity, and state and municipal shares of taxes. 

Senate Bill 1738 prohibits the board from disseminating information relating to video gambling specific to individual licensed locations, and only allows information that's aggregated based on the municipality or county.

It's important for the public to see how much money is being gambled and lost at each establishment. For example, gamblers have lost more than $400,000 in 5 months on five video gambling machines in the Road Ranger truck stop near Camp Butler in Springfield.

Why would video gambling interests want to hide this information from the public? Without this transparency, we're concerned money laundering and organized crime will gain a foothold in video gambling. Riverboat casinos must reveal monthly financial information, and so should video gambling establishments. 

Establishments are getting 35 percent of the revenue from video gambling (municipalities get 5 percent), and those funds could pay for security measures. Video gambling establishments need to take responsibility to safeguard the funds in their establishments such as making daily or twice-a-day deposits, contracting with an armored car for delivery to banks, installing surveillance equipment, or hiring security staff.

Lawmakers shouldn't change the law to prevent the public from knowing how much money is lost and how much profit video gambling interests are making at each location. We call upon the governor, attorney general, and legislators to safeguard the public and oppose SB 1738 to suppress video gambling information. 

Note to readers – Anita Bedell is the executive director for Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems.

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