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If given the chance to vote on issue, most would reject key funding aspect of public works bill.
September 9, 2009
Opposition to video gambling has softened in the last six years, but nearly 60 percent of Illinois voters say they would cast a ballot to ban poker machines in their local bars and restaurants if given the chance, a Tribune/WGN poll found.
Long part of discussions about expanding gambling in the state, legalized video poker became a reality this year when Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation as part of a financing scheme for a $31 billion public works program.
To ease concerns from local officials, the new law allows counties, cities and towns to ban gambling within their boundaries or gives voters the right to seek a referendum to decide the issue. The new law carves out a slice of tax revenues from the machines for local governments, but any locale that bans video gambling doesn’t get to share in the bounty.
The poll found that 58 percent of voters would vote against legalized video gambling in a local referendum, while just 34 percent would support it. Opposition was about 60 percent from voters in suburban Cook County, the collar counties and Downstate, while 49 percent of Chicago voters said they would vote against it and 42 percent for it.
The telephone poll, conducted Aug. 27-31 by Market Shares Corp. with 700 registered voters in the state, had an error margin of 4 percentage points.
State officials estimate that as many as 45,000 legal poker machines could eventually be up and running across Illinois, bringing in $300 million a year in tax revenue. Supporters said one hope is that they will supplant illegal, sometimes mob-run machines — labeled misleadingly as “for amusement only” — that have been paying out with relative impunity in many venues for decades.
Read more: Tribune Poll Finds Nearly 60 Percent Oppose Video Gambling (Chicago Tribune)