Last week, Illinois legalized sports betting as the state governor J.B. Pritzker signed a massive gambling expansion bill. However, those in opposition to gambling expansion in the state are now raising concerns that there would be a significant surge in the number of people registered with voluntary casino exclusion program for gambling addicts.
Currently, there are over 13,000 people registered with the voluntary casino self-exclusion program in Illinois. This number is expected to grow; according to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times, the current figures represent a tiny number of gambling addicts in the state.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Les Bernal, national director of the Stop Predatory Gambling advocacy group. “Most people who have a problem never come forward.”
The current program does not restrict gambling addicts to enter into casinos in the state. However, once they go on to collect their winnings, the players registered with the self-exclusion program have to surrender their casino chips or tokens. These tokens are then given to non-profit organizations that cater to gambling addicts in the state.
Illinois racetracks do not have any self-exclusion program for compulsive gamblers.
“It puts the onus on people who can’t control themselves and who often have threadbare support networks,” said Bernal. According to Bernal, 9,224 Illinoisans registered in the program reflect only around 5% of Illinois’ gambling addicts.
He estimates the total number of gambling addicts in the state at over 184,000, approximately one in every 68 Illinois residents.