Gambling no golden egg for Illinois

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Legalized gambling was supposed to be the goose that laid the golden egg for Illinois, a panacea that would solve all the state’s financial woes.

We heard it first in 1974, when the lottery was introduced. We heard it again in 1990, when casino gambling debuted. We even heard it in 2012, when video gaming was allowed in restaurants, bars and other venues.

But the enormous revenues promised were never fully realized, and they plunged considerably whenever a public crisis surfaced. It happened in the direct aftermath of 9/11. It happened again when the Great Recession took hold in 2008. It is happening again amid the coronavirus crisis, and, this time around, the shortfalls are staggering.

According to a new report by the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, total state tax revenues produced by legalized gambling fell by 13.4 percent, or about $200 million, during the most recent fiscal year.

Even in the world of what many would describe as too big government, $200 million is a whole lot of money. With the state’s budget deficit reaching into the billions, it hardly would eliminate it, but it would plug some holes.

It goes to show you what happens when a government body overly relies on the so-called “sin taxes” to balance budgets. There are so many variables that can alter projections, a crisis that negatively affects people’s cash flow chief among them.

This makes us wonder about the “fair tax” amendment. While a change in the tax code and legal gaming are hardly the same thing, the two share a similarity in that they have been billed as a cure all for state finances.

The previous promises never came to be. What should make us believe the promises being made by fair tax advocates will either?

via The Daily Journal

October 10, 2020 at 08:36AM

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