The Video Gaming Act: Gambling with Illinois’ Future

Perceiving a need for information about the potential negative societal effects of legalized gambling, the U.S. Congress organized the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (Commission), which in 1999 concluded that gambling expansion should be suspended pending further research. In spite of the Commission’s recommendations, in 2009 the Illinois General Assembly passed the Video Gaming Act, the largest gambling expansion in the state’s history, which has the potential to quadruple the number of gambling positions in Illinois. Even more troubling, the new positions will consist entirely of video gambling machines, a variety of “convenience gambling” whose cost to benefit relationship for a state’s citizens is highly questionable. The Commission has gone so far as to recommend that states not only halt expansion of convenience gambling, but roll back existing operations as well. In light of the Commission’s research and recommendations, serious questions arise about whether the Illinois legislature acted in the best interests of Illinois’ citizens when it passed the Video Gaming Act.This Note contends that the decision to pass the Video Gaming Act was unjustified on both economic and ethical grounds and was motivated solely by the General Assembly’s desire to raise revenues at any cost. The author begins by recounting the passage of the Video Gaming Act, noting the rushed passage of the Act and Illinois politicians’ unwillingness to entertain public opinion on the matter. The author then argues that the Act is not economically justifiable because the lack of reliable information about video gambling precludes an effective cost-benefit analysis at this point, and the existing information shows that a video gambling expansion would likely fail a cost-benefit analysis should one be conducted. The author then proceeds to show that the Act is unjustifiable under a moderate deontological analysis as well, as the uncertain benefit to Illinois’s citizens cannot override the acknowledged social costs that video gambling imposes. The Note concludes by arguing that Illinois lawmakers should resolve these problems by repealing the Act, gauging public opinion, conducting situation-specific research on video gambling, and erecting safeguards against future abuses of political power.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.