Illinois casinos are asking the Illinois Gaming Board to be allowed to stay open at all hours, but opponents say that will lead to more people becoming addicted to gambling. The board heard testimony from both sides Thursday, but made no decision. A decision may come next month.
The casinos argued that the expanded hours are needed to boost revenues. “The revenue of original nine casinos, and therefore the support to the state and the local communities, has decreased by over 38 percent since 2007,” said Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association. Currently, Illinois casinos must close for at least two hours a day, with most facilities opting to shut their doors during the early morning hours.
Anti-gambling advocates claim even that short break is crucial for cutting off compulsive gamblers. “People that are there gambling at 6, 7, 8 in the morning-there’s nothing that tells them to go home,” said Melynda Litchfield, a former gambling addict. “What tells them to go home are the lights being turned down, the slot machines being turned off, and a security guard ushering them out of the building.” The casinos argue those addicts can continue gambling in neighboring states: Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin allow 24-hour gambling at casinos.
Each of the state’s 10 casinos would decide individually whether to move to 24-hour operations. Swoik says that Rivers Casino in Des Plaines and Casino Queen in East St. Louis have both indicated they would take advantage of expanded hours.