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Ill. senators approve video gambling

May 20, 2009 9:13:59 PM PDT
Video gambling is a step closer to becoming legal in Illinois.The state senate took action on Wednesday that would allow it at locations such as bars and truck stops.

But video gambling won't become legal without a fight.

Critics like Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart say video gaming is one of the most addictive forms of gambling there is. His department's vice unit investigates businesses that have machines that say they are for amusement only but actually pay out real money on rare occasions.

"These were set up for people to monumentally lose," said Tom Dart, Cook County sheriff.

Dart regularly destroys the machines his officers have found. But still the underground business is thriving - enough that a majority of Illinois senators believe they could fund major state construction projects by legalizing and regulating these machines.

"This bill will create tens of thousands of jobs," said John Cullerton, (D) Illinois Senate president.

"That will help us dig out of the hole that we're in," said Christine Radogno, (R) Illinois Senate minority leader.

Supporters estimate the measure would bring nearly $400 million a year. But gambling opponents say that money would come from many of the people in the state who can least afford it.

"Iowa which has every form of gambling, they brought it in. It was there for a year and their legislature said 'get rid of it' because of the harm it was doing to citizens in these neighborhoods," said Tom Grey, Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation.

When the Sheriff's department conducts these raids they confiscate the machines but they usually can only charge the bartender who pays out the winnings with a misdemeanor. Rarely do they find the person who is behind it all.

Sheriff Dart says he believes often that person is connected to the mob. And he doubts state regulation will change that.

"I know we need revenue but at what expense?" said Dart.

The Illinois House has yet to vote on the measure and opponents are hoping for a different result there.


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