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posted: 5/16/2017 6:21 PM

Editorial: Island Lake wise to draw a line on expansion of video gambling

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  • Island Lake village trustees voted last week for a one-year moratorium on video-gambling permits at local businesses.

    Island Lake village trustees voted last week for a one-year moratorium on video-gambling permits at local businesses.
    Daily Herald File Photo

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

We've never been thrilled about the advent of video gambling in the suburbs and have frequently been proud to see suburban communities whose leaders shared our distaste and voted to keep what used to be known as the "crack cocaine of gambling" out of their towns. It has been disappointing in recent years to see the resolve waver and crack in some of those towns, as the appeal of a new tax revenue source grew increasingly irresistible and their local businesses complained about challenges posed by video-gambling-enabled competitors in neighboring towns.

All of which makes what happened in Island Lake last week reassuring -- and a little remarkable.

Trustees in the small Lake County village approved a one-year moratorium on issuing new video-gambling permits. True, it's not an outright rejection of the gambling, and it is only for a year at this point, but village leaders made it clear they're trying to slow the activity's expansion in the long term.

"Enough is enough," is the phrase used by Village President Charles Amrich, an observation all the more significant because it was Amrich who cast the tiebreaking vote that opened the doors for video gambling in Island Lake in 2014.

Nor is this Island Lake's first attempt to control video-gambling expansion. A 2015 effort limiting liquor licenses at parlors that had video gambling, snacks, drinks and little else failed to slow the applications, so village leaders came up with the idea for a moratorium on the gambling itself.

It's not as if the numbers are staggering for the tiny village. It started with two video gambling operations at the time of the first moratorium and now has just five. But Island Lake's experience is common. As more licenses are issued, more businesses want in on the operation. In a story by our Russell Lissau, Amrich worried about the possibility of having a video machine in every store or gas station.

"How many do you really need?" he asked.

The best answer to that question, of course, is none. Video gambling machines are known for the ease with which they separate players from their money, and the long-term social problems they can lead to -- including, most prominently, gambling addiction as well as robbery, mental health issues and even violent crime -- outweigh the short-term revenue gratification they can provide a community.

But this genie is out of the bottle in Illinois, so it's unrealistic to expect a dramatic reduction in the games anytime soon. The best we can hope for is continued resolve in those towns still holding out against it and the willingness in towns that have it to set and enforce limits. Congratulations to the leaders of Island Lake for at least making that stand.

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