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More than 30,000 video slot and poker machines are in operation at restaurants, truck stops, fraternal organizations and storefront parlors across Illinois.
Cadillacs with tinted windows.
A black Bentley limousine and a white minivan.
They included gambling executives, lobbyists � and about a dozen Illinois lawmakers.
The politicians had flown to Las Vegas to learn about the latest developments in the gambling industry and to discuss its expansion in Illinois, including proposals that would license six new casinos in the state, legalize sports betting and increase the wagering limit on video gambling machines.
Nearly a decade ago, state lawmakers legalized video gambling.
Today, more than 30,000 video slot and poker machines operate outside casinos here, more than any other state in the country.
The machines, which legislators said would generate billions of dollars in revenue for the cash-strapped state, are spread over 6,800 establishments, dotting highways and towns from Winnebago County in the north to Alexander County in the south.
Step outside the borders of Chicago, where video gambling remains illegal, and you will see feather flags, billboards and neon signs advertising video slots and poker in bars and restaurants, truck stops and storefront gambling parlors.
Illinois now has more locations to illinois state statutes gambling place a bet than Nevada.
But the meteoric rise of video gambling has proven to be little more than a botched money grab, according to a ProPublica Illinois investigation of a system that has gone virtually unchecked since its inception.
Based on dozens of interviews, thousands of pages of state financial records and an this unprecedented examination found that, far from helping pull the state out of its financial tailspin, the legalization of video gambling accelerated it and saddled Illinois with new, unfunded regulatory and social costs.
This is a collaboration between and co-published with the Chicago Sun-Times.
Video gambling companies have exploited the deeply flawed legislation to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in profits, while the cities and towns that bear the brunt of the social costs related to gambling receive a fraction of those proceeds.
At every key point, state officials made decisions that undercut taxpayers and helped the companies that market video gambling.
They ignored the inevitable regulatory and social costs.
And they did not anticipate the extent to which video gaming would cut into casino profits, which are taxed at a higher rate.
The net effect: People in Illinois gambled a lot more, but most of the additional money ended up in the coffers of the companies behind video gambling.
Supreme Court in May opened the door to the spread of legalized sports betting.
Illinois lawmakers from both parties passed the Video Gaming Act in 2009 with little debate and unrealistic revenue projections.
But the costs of video gambling had already exacted a heavy toll on the state.
Video gambling booms, promised windfall falls short Since Illinois legalized video gambling in 2009, tens of thousands of machines have been installed all over the state, except in communities where local ordinances prohibit them, such as Chicago.
Current board officials said their legal issues stem from conflicting, often vague statutes and that there never was any intent to violate the law.
Not gambling cleopatra, problem gambling has become a major issue in Illinois, affecting hundreds of thousands of people, with little response from Springfield.
Numerous studies from around the world have found that access and density of gambling options drive addiction.
Yet Illinois is one of read more two states with legalized video gambling � the other is West Virginia � that has never conducted research to measure the prevalence of gambling addiction.
Devices can be found in Berwyn but not Oak Park, in Waukegan but not Lake Forest, in Harvey but not Palos Park.
In fact, as the average income level of a municipality decreases, the average number of machines increases.
Recently, that largess has become concentrated in a handful illinois state statutes gambling companies, with the top five terminal operators controlling nearly 50 percent of the video gambling market, according to internal gaming board reports.
The companies have made those profits in no small part because their trade group, the Illinois Gaming Machine Operators Association � which picked up the tab for the Las Vegas dinner � wrote the Video Gaming Act.
The group declined to comment for this story.
The General Assembly passed the legislation without scrutinizing the details, including the low tax rate on the machines.
In West Virginia and South Dakota, video gambling is taxed at 50 percent.
In Oregon, where the state owns and operates video gambling machines through the state lottery, the tax rate is 73 percent.
Even casino gambling here is taxed at a higher rate, with a progressive formula that can reach as high as 50 percent.
States where video gambling is legal outside of casinos SOURCE: State gaming agencies, Census Bureau.
NOTE: Data on the number and location of machines in Pennsylvania is not yet available.
That state only recently legalized them, and no machines had gone live by the time of publication.
Video gambling has been a boon for bars, restaurants, truck stops and some fraternal organizations as well, providing additional revenue that has undoubtedly helped proprietors and created or maintained service industry jobs.
A ProPublica Illinois review of financial records shows that even in towns saturated illinois state statutes gambling video slot and poker machines, the devices in most cases accounted illinois state statutes gambling roughly 1 percent to 3 percent of local revenue in 2017.
That amounted to about 1.
Despite the broken promises of video gambling, some lawmakers are pushing for another big bet on the industry, with some members of the General Assembly eyeing an expansion vote in the early days of Gov.
Many Chicago politicians also want to open the city to gambling.
Berrios is an ally of House Speaker Michael Madigan, the lead sponsor of the Video Gaming Act in the House before ceding that role to state Rep.
Lang was a staunch gambling proponent before he resigned from the General Assembly this month.
As Berrios stepped from the cab that October night, wearing a white guayabera, he paused for a moment before entering the restaurant.
Provided photo A rushed new law On the afternoon of May 21, 2009, the crowd packing the gallery overlooking the ornate Illinois House chambers, with its gilded ceiling and crystal chandeliers, became so raucous that Rep.
Art Turner, the Chicago Democrat presiding over the session, issued an admonishment.
think, free online gambling tips seems than 48 hours earlier, a five-page proposal tinkering with an obscure provision of estate tax law had morphed into the 280-page bill now before the House.
Included in the revenue-generating legislation was the Video Gaming Act, the largest gambling expansion in Illinois since the creation of the state lottery in 1974.
Lawmakers were counting on video gambling to generate nearly a third of the revenue for Illinois Jobs Now!
It was a critical period for the state and its politicians.
The 2010 election songs list, and the state was reeling amid the worst economic downturn since the Depression.
Unemployment had reached double digits.
Homes were being foreclosed.
Public sentiment across the country had soured on incumbents, giving rise to the Tea Party movement and making politicians from both parties skittish.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, introduced the Illinois Jobs Now!
It passed the General Assembly with strong bipartisan support.
Rod Blagojevich had been coin gambling csgo on corruption charges and impeached, becoming the fourth Illinois governor since the 1970s � both Democrat and Republican � to be indicted.
Introduced by Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, the bill represented a rare display of bipartisanship in Springfield, with Republican leaders signing onto the proposal as lawmakers heaped praise upon one another for working across party lines.
The bill passed both chambers by large margins.
Along with legalizing video gambling, the bill increased sales taxes on a host of products, including candy and liquor, while boosting fees for vehicle licenses and registrations.
The gambling industry had spent years lobbying to legalize video gaming, but opponents � a coalition made up largely of church leaders � had managed to block previous efforts.
This time, the lobbyist for anti-gambling forces learned of the bill only that day, leaving opponents just an hour before the measure was introduced.
It had learned about the legislation the week before � even though the law would increase the complexity of its work and exponentially expand the number of entities it oversees without providing additional funding or staff to do it.
Madigan declined a request for an interview.
click here could not be reached.
Tom Cross, the House minority leader when the Video Gaming Act was passed, said he voted for it but is not a staunch supporter of video gambling.
Former Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, who was part of the leadership team that negotiated the Illinois Jobs Now!
I have no doubt that it preys on problem gamblers and vulnerable people.
I had to make a decision, and it was imperative to get people back to work.
Instead, it took three years.
The liquor industry, which bristled at the tax increase for alcohol also contained in the bill, illinois state statutes gambling up the legislation in court, claiming the General Assembly had violated the state constitution by passing multiple substantive measures in a single bill.
Regulatory hurdles also contributed to delays.
And lawmakers had counted on tens of thousands of machines being installed illinois state statutes gambling Chicago to meet their revenue projections.
But they somehow failed to take into account a century-old ordinance that banned gambling in the city without a referendum, which then-Mayor Richard M.
The General Assembly borrowed against the projected revenues anyway.
Video gambling has popped up in shops all across Illinois, including at in Niles.
The shortfalls meant the state had to draw from other sources.
Though lawmakers said money from video gambling and other new taxes and fees for Illinois Jobs Now!
Video gambling revenue, plus other taxes and fees included in the law, was supposed to go into a special fund to pay down debt from Illinois Jobs Now!
Legislators even passed a separate measure that required it.
While the bulk of video gambling revenue goes to fund Illinois Jobs Now!
Video gambling cut into school funding from casinos As video gambling has spread across the state, it has cut into casino wagering and, as a result, led to a drop in education funding from gambling.
NOTE: Figures are adjusted for inflation using the January 2017 consumer price index � the most recent available data.
The more casinos make, the higher their tax rate.
Video gambling is taxed at a flat rate of 30 percent regardless of how much the industry makes.
Much of the growth in gambling revenue came as the country began one of the longest economic expansions in U.
Researchers say it is unwise to count on gambling revenue to remain steady over time because it is a form of discretionary spending.
Six years later, the board oversees more than 30,000 additional positions, the equivalent of 25 more casinos.
And those positions are scattered across more than 6,800 locations in nearly every corner of the state.
Yet when the General Assembly passed the Video Gaming Act, it set aside no money for additional staff or resources to implement the law and oversee the industry.
Jaffe, then the chairman of the gaming board, said he opposed video gambling, in no small part because he felt there was no way to regulate the industry.
In most cases, operators split profits 50-50 with establishment owners, just as they do under the Video Gaming Act.
Lobbyists for these amusement operators drafted the Video Gaming Act, according to industry insiders and lawmakers, creating licensing guidelines and determining how profits would be divided among operators, establishments, local governments and the state.
Those operators also began entering into video gambling contracts with their existing clients well before the board could set up a regulatory structure or conduct the thousands of investigations needed to make licensing decisions.
Aaron Jaffe, a former state legislator and Cook County judge, was chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board when the General Assembly legalized video gambling.
AP AP Once the law passed, the gaming board was given the task of sorting out diablo 2 gambling cheat relationships while attempting to keep unsavory operators � including those with ties to organized crime � out of the industry.
The board estimated it would need a staff of 350 to do the job, according to internal agency reports.
Yet the number of workers has never topped 286 and has dipped as low as 233 in the past three years, even as the industry has grown.
At one point, the board had a single lawyer to help regulate what has become a highly litigious industry.
Often, the board must face off against companies that have more resources, time and expertise than the state.
One reason for the lack of resources: The Video Gaming Act fails to provide enough money to cover the regulatory costs.
The law designates 75 percent of licensing and administrative fees to pay for investigators and attorneys to vet licensing applications as well as write and enforce rules.
But those fees please click for source much lower than other jurisdictions.
Bruce Rauner in 2015.
I guess you have go back and ask who drafted this legislation.
Lang did not respond to a request for comment.
Lou Lang, D-Skokie, was a staunch proponent of gambling, including video gambling.
In early January, he resigned his House seat to join a lobbying firm.
Filling in the funding gap: casino revenue.
Yet casino revenue has been in decline.
The vague law and its weak administrative rules made licensing and contract decisions seem arbitrary, leading to a series of missteps.
The former administrator, who left his position in March after 16 years, declined to comment.
And in May, a Cook County circuit judge, hearing a lawsuit, ruled that the board violated the Open Meetings Act by improperly going into a closed session, then misrepresented what happened in meeting minutes.
ProPublica Illinois has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking a recording of the closed session at the center of that case.
He also said conflicts between the Video Gaming Act and the Open Meetings Act have made the board vulnerable to lawsuits from the well-funded industry.
As a result, when we say no, we get sued.
The contract was rebid, though Tracy denied that the board had shown preferential treatment.
None of that has stopped some members of the General Assembly from pushing yet another massive gambling expansion bill as they continue to forage for ways to bring in revenue without raising taxes or cutting spending.
In the more than nine years since the Video Gaming Act passed, the influence of the industry has only increased.
And lawmakers seem ready to make many of the same mistakes.
At hearings last fall on a new gambling expansion bill, there was no discussion about whether the gaming board can handle a larger workload and little acknowledgement of the social costs of gambling.
Dan Mihalopoulos is a reporter for CONTRIBUTING: Jerrel Floyd KNOW SOMEONE STRUGGLING WITH VIDEO GAMBLING?
Is It Legal To Gamble Online In New York?
Gaming Law in Illinois While Illinois gambling laws allow betting on horse racing and riverboat casinos, most other types of gambling are prohibited in the state. Contests of skill (rather than mere chance) are allowed, as are charitable games, bingo, and raffles.
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