CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Gambling addictions and drunken driving are among life-changing problems that will worsen if Illinois allows casinos to take bets 24 hours a day, a University of Illinois professor who has studied gambling for more than two decades says.
Nationally known gambling critic John W. Kindt argues the Illinois Gaming Board should be considering reduced hours for riverboat gambling, not a casino-backed proposal that would keep their gaming tables and bars open round-the-clock.
"Most bars aren't open 24-7, and casinos with bars should not be open 24-7," said Kindt, a professor of business and of legal policy. "The studies show you'll have more drunk driving, more paychecks lost in casinos, more hungry children and more taxes for everyone."
Casinos have revived a push to stay open non-stop, saying revenues have plunged since a new statewide smoking ban took effect in January. A slumping economy and bad winter weather also could be partly to blame, industry officials say.
Kindt disputes claims that casino jobs could evaporate if losses mount, saying studies show that 90 percent of casino revenues come from slot machines.
"Since slot machines only require someone to plug them in, dust them off and collect the losses, the lost jobs claims are not valid arguments by casinos wanting 24-7," he said.
The state gaming board, which voted down a similar plan in 1999, has set an April 8 public hearing in Chicago on the latest proposal. A decision is expected soon after, perhaps during the panel's April 22 meeting.
Illinois casinos are now open 19 to 22 hours a day, while neighboring states allow longer hours. Indiana's casinos are open non-stop, while Iowa's and Missouri's are open 24 hours on weekends.
"Just because your neighbor is burning down his garage doesn't mean you should do it," Kindt said.
It is unknown how many would expand to 24 hours if the gaming board allows it, but virtually all have expressed interest in round-the-clock operations on weekends and holidays, according to the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, which represents the state's nine casinos.
Kindt argues Illinois casinos should be required to cut back to 18 hours a day rather than expanding. He says the move would be in line with findings of the U.S. National Gambling Impact Study Commission, which concluded casinos should assume more social responsibility.
Endless casino hours would compound societal ills such as alcoholism and drunken driving by creating de facto "super bars" that never close, Kindt said.
Studies also show that two-thirds of casino revenues come from addicted and problem gamblers, whose losses would mount if they were allowed to bet 24 hours a day, Kindt said.
"Psychological studies almost uniformly conclude that addicted and problem gamblers must be forced to stop gambling and go home via casino closures, like bars must find cabs for the intoxicated to prevent drunk driving," Kindt said.
Professor John Kindt - Faculty Profile
(Story by Jan Dennis, UIUC News Bureau)