Video slots comes to Illinois?

Lawmakers in the state of Illinois are seriously considering legalizing video poker and other electronic gambling devices throughout the state. With a maximum of 5 devices per location, this would be similar to–but smaller than–Nevada’s restricted licenses, which permit bars to have up to 15 machines. From the Chicago Tribune:

Video poker has long been a wink-and-a-nod business for bars, restaurants and social clubs across the state, but now Illinois lawmakers want to legalize gambling on the machines and tap the revenue to pay for new schools, bridges and roads.

Opponents say that amounts to a massive expansion of gambling — 45,000 machines or more — that will add to social problems and make it harder to break organized crimes grip on an industry where patrons routinely get under-the-table payouts for playing games that are supposed to be for "entertainment only."

Such fears have kept Illinois from joining the short list of states that allow widespread electronic gambling, but this spring the issue has zoomed to the top of the list for starving politicians looking to fund the first major construction program in the state in nearly a decade.

Legislators who were once put off when former Gov. Rod Blagojevich called video poker the "crack cocaine" of gambling now see it as more palatable than alternatives such as raising the gas tax — especially given the payoff they could get at ribbon cuttings for new projects. Theyre even suggesting that legalizing the machines might elbow the mob out of the business.

Illinois lawmakers betting on video gambling —

I bet that the people who own gaming licenses in the Land of Lincoln are thrilled about this. Crippling taxes, smoking restrictions, and now competition from widespread video gambling. It’s not a good time to own a casino in Illinois.

This would be a major expansion of gambling–45,000 machines is a lot of machines. Assuming an average win per day of $150 (which is above the Nevada total but well below the current Illinois casino figure), I get annual revenues of $2,463,750,000. Figuring a state tax rate of fifty percent, that’s about $1.2 billion in new taxes for the legislature to play with.

That’s going to be hard to turn down.

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