Gambling shifts dollars

News-Democrat, Belleville (Ill.): It’s often said that a rising tide lifts all boats, but maybe not if it’s a floating casino in Illinois. Gambling is on the rise in Illinois thanks to a rapid proliferation of video gambling machines in bars and clubs. But for the Casino Queen in East St. Louis, the Alton Belle and all of Illinois’ casinos collectively, revenues were down in January.

Maybe it’s just a seasonal drop as the Casino Queen says. But don’t be surprised if the casinos’ numbers continue to fall as the video gambling machines increase. It would be logical if that happened.

Unlike the federal government, which can print money, individuals who gamble in Illinois have a finite number of dollars to spend. An increase in spending in one place means a decrease somewhere else — either at a casino, in savings or in the purchase of discretionary goods.

In Illinois, part of the casinos’ winnings are diverted to horse racing to help prop up that industry. Will part of the video gambling winnings at bars and clubs eventually have to be diverted to prop up the casinos?

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