Now that Crystal Lake has approved video gaming, Lakewood is McHenry County's lone holdout.
Illinois legalized video gambling in 2009 to help generate revenue to pay off the bonds for a $31 billion capital plan, although the machines didn’t start appearing in local establishments until late 2012.
Crystal Lake was one of six local governments that took advantage of an opt-out under the law and banned video gambling, and is the fifth to change its mind. Woodstock reversed its ban in 2012; and Cary, Algonquin and the McHenry County Board reversed their bans the next year.
The state gets 30 percent of the proceeds, 5 percent of which is given back to the local government on top of whatever annual fees it charges. The remaining 70 percent of the proceeds are split between the machine owner and the establishment.
The revenue is great, however, we have been opposed to video gaming from the start because of what it can do to the gamblers. We have maintained the cost of helping these establishments get additional revenue needed to be balanced with the harm it can cause an individual with an addiction and a family who may not be able to afford losing the dollars pumped into a machine with an often false hope of a big payout.
That said, it looks like video gaming is here to stay, and there doesn’t appear to be much public outcry against it.
As Paul Leech, owner of The Cottage in Crystal Lake, pointed out, there wasn’t any opposition at Tuesday’s Crystal Lake City Council meeting when the council was voting on video gambling.
“I don’t see anybody here standing up and objecting to it,” Leech said. “I don’t see people knocking down the door with pickaxes, handles and pitchforks demanding we all resign.”
Moving forward, we urge residents to proceed with caution with their video gambling habits. When done in moderation and at a level you can afford, video gaming can be an entertaining way to spend your disposable income.
When done recklessly, it can become crippling, and a gambling addiction can tear families apart.
If you are going to gamble, please gamble responsibly.