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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Gambling by Any Other Name

13 October 2003

Apparently, at least in the state of Illinois, "acceptable gambling" is in the eye of the beholder.

The notion of slot machines at existing race tracks, places where adults already go to place bets on horse races both locally and nationwide, created a fervor.

The idea of putting video poker machines in bars, places where adults go to consume alcoholic beverages, triggered an outcry of opposition.

Yet Illinois State Lottery terminals, found in virtually every convenience store where kids go to buy Slurpees and candy, raise nary an eyebrow anymore. Machines that sell instant "scratch-off" tickets are common in supermarkets and drug stores.

The lottery has the luxury of being draped in a cloak of respectability because it is promoted by the state. Television and radio advertising, not to mention the hype it gets in the news every time the jackpot hits nine figures, give the state-run numbers racket an aura of "family entertainment".

The fact of the matter is that the lottery is the biggest sucker bet of them all. Only fifty percent of the money that's gambled is returned to players in the form of winnings. The other fifty percent goes to expenses and revenue coffers.

Gambling by any other name is still gambling. The lottery is no different than other forms of state-sanctioned gambling. As a matter of fact, it's probably a lot worse. People are enticed into playing for "pie-in-the-sky" mega-jackpots where the odds are tens of millions to one against winning.

The public is bombarded with lottery games. Spend an extra buck or two on a selection of scratch-off games, many of which have themes that attract the eyes of children and are usually prominently displayed in cases at the checkout.

Everyday there are countless thousands who bet their lucky numbers in any number of drawings that are held twice a day. The results are carried live on television, broadcast on radio, and published in newspapers.

Now talk has surfaced about the possibility of incorporating keno into the Illinois State Lottery mix with drawings conducted every five minutes!

Meanwhile, the Illinois riverboat casino gambling industry is battered with a 70 percent tax on revenues and bruised with a hostile environment for growth.

While riverboat casinos minutes away in Northwest Indiana are converting to 24-hour gaming, riverboats in Illinois are cutting hours of operation, reducing services, passing costs on to guests, and laying off employees.

Slot machines get a bad rap for being "one-armed bandits", but collectively they are far more generous than playing the lottery. Slot machines average well over 90 percent return to players. Most machines retain about five percent of money played, not the fifty percent a bet on the lottery costs.

Casinos offer adults a very attractive entertainment option, luxury hotel experiences, fine dining, and rewards and cash bonuses in return for their play.

If Illinois continues to strangle existing riverboat properties and repel future investors and developers, the casino industry in this state is going to stagnate and eventually go into decline.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp