After much outcry, the Forest Park City Council has reinstated funding for treatment of compulsive gambling. A few months ago, the city had quietly discontinued funding for the program. When citizens began complaining, the city decided to reinstate funding. Citizens of the area near Chicago had threatened to go to the state of Illinois about the move. Illinois law states all towns that allow gambling must give a portion of the revenue to combat compulsive gambling. Forest Park pulled in hundreds of thousands of dollars in gambling revenue last year.
Gambling in Illinois
Illinois has several different types of gambling. Casino gambling is legal on riverboats throughout the state, except on Lake Michigan in the Chicago area. Illinois became the second state to legalize riverboat gaming in the nation. There are currently ten casinos operating throughout Illinois on riverboats. There is also legal horse and dog racing on tracks throughout the state.
There was much debate in Illinois concerning access to gambling in smaller suburban towns and rural towns. Many suburban towns complained that other towns were unfairly making more money because of gambling. The cities threatened court action. The Legislature agreed that other areas should have access to gambling revenue.
As a response to complaints by rural areas, the state passed the Video Gaming Act in 2009. The Video Gaming Act allowed townships and counties access to gambling revenue. It also permitted some retail establishments to get video gaming terminals. Bars and grills, truck stops, fraternal and veteran orders could receive licenses for up to five video gaming terminals per establishment.
Video gaming terminals (VGTs) can have one game or several games available. Some VGTs operate as a lottery-based game. Others have many different games available, including poker and blackjack. Older machines have basic sound and graphics. However, newer VGTs have state of the art graphics and sound, and are very popular with players in several states. Examples of other states that have VGTs include Pennsylvania and Louisiana.
The Law in Illinois
Illinois requires that one-sixth of all gambling revenue be set aside for gambling treatment programs and compulsive gambling programs. In Forest Park, the fund represents tens of thousands of dollars. Several programs in the Forest Park area use funds for their programs. There is a church in the Forest Park area that operates an awareness program to prevent gambling addiction. The program is six-weeks and it is offered several times throughout the year. There are also Gambler’s Anonymous programs, which operate year round. These programs are meant to help gamblers to stay away from businesses that have video gaming terminals.
Forest Park has a population of around 14,000. The town itself is over 100 years old, having been founded in 1907. Forest Park was most famous for its naval ordinance facility, which operated from the turn of the century until the 1970s. The naval base was responsible for making many of the torpedoes used during World War II. At its height, the facility employed over 7,000 people to build weapons—making over 20,000 torpedoes during World War II. The facility closed in 2017. The village has struggled with its new status and has looked revenue to help keep the area afloat. Many people who live in Forest Park now work outside the area and commute back and forth.
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