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Our view: Uphold video gaming ban

The addictions of some should not be exploited for the benefit of others.

And that is why we ask the McHenry County Board to keep its ban on video gaming in unincorporated areas of the county.

The board’s Liquor and License Committee voted, 4-1, Monday to recommend the County Board repeal the December 2009 ban, which it put in place shortly after the Illinois General Assembly legalized video gambling in establishments serving alcohol to help pay for a $30 billion capital bill.

Counties and municipalities were allowed to opt out, and Cary, Crystal Lake and Lakewood did so. Fourteen municipalities in McHenry County allow it, with Algonquin joining in just last week.

The state allows machines to have a maximum bet of $2, with maximum payouts of $500. After winnings are paid, the state gets 25 percent of the take, municipalities 5 percent, and the remaining 70 percent is split between owners of the local establishments and owners of the gaming machines.

The McHenry County Board’s ban affects 60 establishments in unincorporated parts of the county. Those owners say the ban is unfair and leading to decreased revenue as patrons take their business elsewhere.

There were 134 machines registered in 12 municipalities with territory within McHenry County, which netted those governments a total of $22,816 in February, according to the Illinois Gaming Board. The state received $114,073 from those machines last month, and a total of almost $3.4 million statewide.

Times are tough. Money is tight and the state’s fiscal health continues to be gloomy.

But our stance on this has not changed. The cost of helping these establishments get additional revenue needs to be balanced with the harm it could be causing 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 cost is too high. The full County Board is set to vote on the repeal next week. We urge members to uphold the ban.

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