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State lawmakers place their bets on sports gambling

FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, file pool photo, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivers his first budget address on to a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate at the Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield, Ill. Legislatures in roughly two dozen states are considering bills to legalize sports gambling, made possible after a Supreme Court ruling last year ended Nevada’s monopoly. Lawmakers have introduced more than 100 legalization bills around the country. Many of them have broad support, but they also reveal areas of dispute, such as whether to allow betting on college games and what to do with any new state revenue. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants the Legislature to immediately legalize internet and sports gambling.

The last time legislators moved quickly to pass a massive expansion of gambling, the state began borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars against the anticipated revenue, according to ProPublica's investigative report, "How Illinois bet on video gambling and lost." It took eight years before the state collected the minimum amount expected from video gambling, and ended up $1.3 billion short of what lawmakers expected.

Almost 31,000 video gambling machines are now operating in 6,800 neighborhood establishments. Municipalities have enacted moratoriums, banned or limited video gambling parlors, and increased fees to pay for costs.

Legalizing internet and sports gambling will expand gambling in homes and on mobile devices and cellphones. Access to sporting events worldwide at all times makes gambling just a touch away and fuels gambling addiction.

Underage gambling could also increase. There are 25,000 children aged 11-16 who are pathological gamblers in the United Kingdom, where internet and sports gambling is legal. One 13-year-old boy used his phone to take a picture of his dad’s company credit card and set up an account to gamble in a matter of minutes.

People check their cellphones frequently throughout the day, and gambling apps entice them to gamble. Gambling companies target young people with free spins, free sports bets for trying casino games, and multiple “nudges” to bet.

Gambling is an unstable source of revenue. Tell legislators to reject more bad bets.

Anita Bedell  •  Springfield, Ill.

Executive director, Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems