Studies Issue Warnings about Bankruptcy, Gambling

By Thompson, Don | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 3, 1999 | Go to article overview

Studies Issue Warnings about Bankruptcy, Gambling


Thompson, Don, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Don Thompson Daily Herald State Government Writer

SPRINGFIELD - Counties with casinos or racetracks tend to have a higher concentration of personal bankruptcies, a new national study has found.

Suburban statistics and another new study cast doubt on that conclusion, but the latter study also links nearby casinos with higher rates of problem gambling.

Bankruptcy and divorce attorney Gary Shilts, who is joining anti-gambling groups pushing for more protections for compulsive gamblers, says that ironically, the trend has kept him busy.

"For my business, the riverboats have been the best thing to happen since crack cocaine," the Aurora attorney said.

Shilts said drug use seems to be declining as a source of divorcing couples' financial woes.

"(But) now I'm starting to see exactly the same thing, and have been for the last couple of years, with riverboat gambling," he said, as addicted gamblers have ready access to four suburban casinos.

Gambling addiction and anti-gambling organizations also cite anecdotal evidence that easy access to gambling breeds compulsions that often lead to financial distress.

But that may not be the case in Kane County, home to Elgin's Grand Victoria and the Aurora Hollywood riverboat casinos. Bankruptcies are below average there.

Bankruptcies are higher than average in Cook County, home to now-shuttered Arlington International Racecourse and two other horse-racing tracks. But that's not unexpected, according to both studies' authors, because urban areas generally tend to have higher bankruptcy rates.

Will County, home to two riverboats and a horse racetrack, is higher than the national average but lower than the Illinois average in bankruptcy rates.

Despite the mixed results in Illinois, nationally counties with casinos or tracks had an 18 percent higher personal bankruptcy rate than those without, according to a study done by SMR Research Corp. of Hackettstown, N.J., for the banking industry.

"We think there's evidence that gambling venues do play a role in driving bankruptcies," said SMR Vice President George Yacik. He also cited gambling as perhaps the fastest growing cause of bankruptcies nationally, though other factors still lead the way in causing financial problems. …

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