Illinois casino debate: Should they be allowed operate 24 hours - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Illinois casino debate: Should they be allowed operate 24 hours a day?

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Illinois Casino Gaming Association is pushing for a change in state law to allow casinos to operate for 24 hours a day.

Right now, the longest any casino in the state is open is 22 hours a day. It's only a couple hours difference, but the Gaming Association president told FOX 32 News that couple hours could make a big difference in revenue and in taxes for a state that desperately needs money.

Tom Swoik, the head of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association says the gambling industry in Illinois has been struggling. Revenue is down 38 percent over the past 6 years and that's not including the new rivers casino that just opened near O'Hare. In addition, the casinos' competition--in places like truck stops--are allowed to run their video gambling machines around the clock.

But for gambling opponents, every minute counts.

Phil Blackwell, pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Chicago, has been on the gambling front in Illinois for years sees only trouble here.

"Right now there are over 10,000 residents of Illinois who have excluded themselves from casinos because they can't control their gambling," Blackwell argues. "That represents, we think, about 5 percent of the people who ought to be excluded, so the casinos are out after the other 95 percent to see how much they can take advantage of their weaknesses and there's something obviously very cynical about that."

When it comes to gambling, Illinois stands alone. Every other state allows 24-hour gambling.

Swoik tells FOX 32 News that includes more competition for Illinois casinos. Boats and other casinos in our neighboring states-- Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri--are all open and ready to take Illinois dollars around the clock.

"They just leave our casinos and go elsewhere, to Indiana or to places that have video gaming," Swoik says, adding that there is "no research to support that adding these hours would lead to increased gambling addiction."

Responding to Swoik's comments, Blackwell says, "the longer they're open, the more chances there are of taking advantage of people."

"You've been in bars where there's a closing time and there's a reason for that," he continues. "Sometimes people won't go home. But also in bars, bartenders are able to stop serving somebody if they are drinking too much. In casinos, there's no impulse for anybody to stop anyone from gambling too much."

The casinos say they are vigilant to keep gambling addicts off of their gambling floors by having a casino gambling hotline and a self-exclusion list -- where someone who thinks they have a gambling problem reports it to a casino.

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