Decatur residents lost $43.9 million to video gambling in last 12 months
Video gambling is a $170 million business in Decatur, Illinois and may be one of the fastest growing industries in our city. Between Dec. 2018 -Nov. 2019 (the year immediately prior to the pandemic), $124.4 million was gambled, and citizens lost $31.7 million at 447 machines. Between Dec. 2020 – Nov. 2021, $170.2 million was gambled (37% increase) and citizens lost $43.9 million (38%) at 498 machines (11%). During some of last year, video gambling establishments were not even open due to the pandemic. On average, the gambling establishment and owners of the machines split $260,080 in citizen gambling losses after taxes between Dec. 2020 – Nov. 2021 compared to $206,382 between Dec. 2018 – Nov. 2019. With 88 gambling establishments in Decatur and a per capita gambling loss of $622.25 per resident, our city could make the claim that we are the gambling capital of Illinois.
There is little if any evidence that the gambling industry is a net benefit to our city and its citizens, and the negative impacts of gambling include crime, bankruptcy, and addiction. Owners of the establishments include national and regional companies and businesses who make a significant proportion of their revenue from gambling. Given that Decatur is one of the poorest cities in Illinois, it reasonable to assume that a large amount of the gambling revenue is from poorer individuals that may live in blighted neighborhoods, and it is going to large companies and businesses based outside of Decatur.
The tax revenue we receive from video gambling is unlikely to make up for the societal costs of gambling the city currently faces, and the Decatur City Council has yet to take the action necessary to reverse the significant negative impacts of gambling in this city. Other forms of city revenue, including property taxes which were recently raised, are not enough to support the continually increasing costs of public safety and other essential services. In fact, the amount of general fund revenues that could be paid by property taxes rose from $817,000 in 2021 to a projected $1,000,000 in 2022 (22% increase).
At the next city council meeting on January 3 at 5:30 PM, the Decatur City Council will be discussing whether to alter the fee that owners of gambling machines and the establishment pay for each gambling machine. $500 is the amount of money per machine that owners paid prior to 2021, and it was changed last year in part because establishments were closed. It is time to reinstate it.
PLEASE EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS AT THE NEXT CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Meetings take place in the council chambers located on the third floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend meetings and express their views. Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person near the beginning of each city council meeting. In addition, citizens can provide comments regarding one regular agenda item per meeting for up to three minutes provided they notify the city in advance (and prior to the start of the meeting). You can request to speak on a particular agenda item at a council meeting by filling out an on-line form at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/advance-request-to-speak-at-council-meeting/.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss city issues with a council member, phone numbers and email addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
AGENDAS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE
An agenda and information about each agenda item for each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.