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Gambling triples its local reach in four months

By Brad Weisenstein, The Belleville News-Democrat

The News-Democrat found the newly legal video gaming in Southwestern Illinois grew rapidly, with gamblers in April losing $1.06 million - nearly triple what they lost at the end of 2012. 

The growth of machines worries video gambling opponents and those who work with gambling addicts. Locally, the machines grew from 144 in December to 484 in April. 

Collectively, they handled more than $13 million in bets with an average payout of 91.8 percent at local bars, restaurants, lodges and truck stops. By comparison, gamblers lost $16.7 million at the two metro-east riverboat casinos during April. The boats each saw revenues drop about 3 percent from a year earlier, but have been on a downward slide since 2008 when the recession began. 

The expansion promises to continue as the current local fleet of 484 machines could potentially reach 3,500, according to Illinois Department of Revenue numbers. With roughly 7,500 qualifying establishments in the state, the total could potentially go from 6,219 video gaming machines to 37,500. 

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This story was published with help from IRE's Total Newsroom Training

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