The city of West Chicago is undergoing a revitalization effort of its downtown district in an effort to attract stable economic development. A critical issue has arisen that may prove to be an inflection point for the direction of this rebranding: a proposed ordinance to allow video gambling. Despite significant negative sentiment from the community, the city council remains split. Those in support cite a more favorable competitive environment with neighboring cities and potentially new business ventures. I believe this is a fallacious argument, albeit an unintentional one.
I believe the risks greatly outweigh the nominal benefits, which are purely economical and skew wildly to local businesses. Only 5 percent of revenue generated (lost money from patrons) is returned to the host municipality -- it is estimated this would amount to $50,000 per year and funds would not directly flow to publicly beneficial services. While businesses could receive extra income, customer demographics could potentially change, which could lead to significant customer turnover and lower spending. There is also no evidence this would spur business investment.
Social and economic risks could be widespread and severe. An August 2017 study by University of Illinois economics professors determined that video gambling is associated with a statistically significant increase in both property and violent crimes. Additionally, a paper in the Journal of Gambling Studies indicated that the poor are still the leading participants; given the extremely low odds of winning, this simply translates to a negatively returning asset for individuals that likely can't afford it. Coupled with its addictive nature, this could result in insurmountable financial burdens that could lead to domestic problems, insolvency and ultimately a broader impact on residents.
The ordinance is being brought to referendum on March 20. I strongly urge citizens of West Chicago to vote against.