Decatur residents lost $46.9 million to video gambling in the last 12 months
Decatur can be considered the gambling capital of Illinois. In Decatur, between May 2022 – April 2023, citizens lost $46.9 million at 100 establishments hosting 574 machines. With an estimated 2022 population of 69,097, the city has a per capita gambling loss of $679 per resident. The epitome of Decatur’s gambling industry may be the presence of a new establishment where one can do laundry, gamble, and drink alcohol at a bar/cocktail lounge that is located within a distressed neighborhood.
There is little if any evidence that the gambling industry is a net benefit to our city and its citizens. Slot machines are not an investment for citizens, and the negative impacts of gambling include crime, bankruptcy, and addiction. Furthermore, 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.
Collectively, our citizens now lose $469,054 at each establishment on an annual basis. Gambling losses are split between the owner of the machines ($154,787, 33% of losses, often out-of-town companies), owners of the establishment ($154,787, 33% of losses, often out-of-town businesses), and state and local taxes (34%, split 85% to the state and 15% to the municipality).
THE DECATUR CITY COUNCIL SHOULD LIMIT THE NUMBER OF VIDEO GAMBLING ESTABLISHMENTS
The Decatur City Council has a responsibility to its citizens to reduce the significant negative impacts of video gambling, particularly given the small amount of revenue that the city receives from video gambling losses ($2.3 million in taxes to the city represents <3% of general fund revenue). Most notably, the city council can vote to limit the number of video gambling licenses that are issued. To date, the opposite has occurred. Since May 2018-April 2019, the number of gambling establishments has increased 15% (from 87 to 100), the number of machines has increased 36% (from 423 to 574), and the amount of money citizens have lost has increased 56% (from $30.0 to $46.9 million).
The Decatur City Council should be focused on reversing Decatur’s negative trends including declining population, high poverty, low median household income, and poor health metrics. One hundred gambling establishments in Decatur exacerbates our negative trends.
RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE FOR THOSE EXPERIENCING PROBLEM GAMBLING
I want to thank organizations such as Heritage Behavioral Health Center that offer programs to address gambling addiction in our city. To get help, visit www.heritagenet.org or call The Problem Gambling Hotline at 1-800-Gambler.
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON GAMBLING IN DECATUR?
The city is currently inviting citizens to participate in a survey regarding gambling. To participate in the quick, 6-question survey, visit the following link: https://decaturil.gov/share-your-opinion-on-slots-video-gaming-in-decatur/