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Illinois prof says economic fix starts with gambling ban
By Dan Carden | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/21/2009 1:57 PM

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SPRINGFIELD - With unemployment in Illinois now at 9.1 percent and the state facing an estimated $12.4 billion budget deficit, the easiest way to fix the Illinois' economy is to ban gambling statewide, a University of Illinois professor told state lawmakers Tuesday.

"If you're dumping money into these slot machines, you're not spending money on cars, refrigerators, computers, education. In studies, it shows that around these slot machine areas we have people spending even 10 percent less on food," said John Warren Kindt, a professor of business and public policy at the Urbana-Champaign campus.

A gambling ban would lead people to spend more money on consumer goods and services, which would lead to the creation of more jobs supplying those goods and services, which would lead to still more spending by the people with the new jobs, Kindt said.

"The lost consumer spending is enormous. The lost sales tax revenue - enormous. We're losing. And when you start losing the economy, you want to go back to basics, you don't want to keep going down the wrong path," Kindt said.

Illinois took in more than $1.3 billion in casino tax and lottery revenue in 2008. But Kindt said that for every $1 gambling brings in to Illinois, the state ends up paying $3 in additional costs due to higher crime, broken families and increased poverty.

State Senate President John J. Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, told the Daily Herald in February that he wants to fund a statewide road and transit construction program by allowing Illinoisans to buy lottery tickets and bet on horse races over the Internet. That plan is still pending in the state Senate.

"Internet gambling is the very worst form of gambling because it puts electronic gambling at every school desk, every work desk and in every living room," said Kindt, who edited a 3,000 page report, "Gambling with Crime, Destabilized Economies and Financial Systems."

Republican lawmakers have also suggested expanding gambling to pay for a construction program by increasing the number of gaming positions at existing riverboat casinos and legalizing video poker machines across the state, rather than increasing the gas tax.

"You can create jobs if you legalize illegal drugs. You can create tax revenues if you legalize illegal drugs," Kindt said, rejecting the idea of expanding gambling to pay for new roads.

However, the prospects lawmakers will embrace a total gambling ban are very slight. In 2005, the Illinois House voted to outlaw riverboat gambling, but the proposal went nowhere in the Illinois Senate. There is no legislation pending that would ban gambling in Illinois, and in December, the state's long-dormant 10th riverboat license was awarded for $125 million to Midwest Gaming for a new casino in Des Plaines.