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posted: 9/3/2013 5:00 AM

State must protect addicted gamblers

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Many communities and counties quickly overturned long-standing ordinances that banned gambling in alcohol establishments to legalize video gambling. The article, "New gambling machines bypass casino addiction safeguards," raises issues about the potentially addictive machines operating in neighborhoods. Soon there will be more gambling machines in neighborhoods than at Illinois' 10 casinos!

The National Gambling Impact Study Commission found the presence of a gambling facility within 50 miles roughly doubles the prevalence of problem and pathological gamblers. Making gambling more available and acceptable in neighborhood establishments will increase gambling addiction. Local residents will gamble on the legal video gambling machines closest to their home -- in restaurants, pizza parlors, bowling alleys, golf courses, truck stops, bars, video gambling parlors, veterans and fraternal organizations. A study of gamblers in South Carolina found as many as 20 percent of the video machine gamblers met the criteria for probable pathological gamblers.

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Video gambling machines are called the "crack cocaine" of gambling, with people getting hooked on this form of gambling in one year or less. Experienced video poker gamblers can play a hand every 3 or 4 seconds. With the maximum bet of $2 a hand, residents could lose $300 to $500 an hour!

More than 10,000 addicted gamblers are on the self-exclusion list at Illinois' casinos, and thousands more continue to gamble. Video gambling establishments will not "cut off" their best customers from gambling, and there are no measures in place to safeguard residents from gambling away their paychecks in one sitting. State and local governments must do more than sit back and collect the gambling losses from addicted residents.

Anita Bedell

Executive director

Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems

Springfield

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