Editor’s note: This is the primary of a two-component GLT series on how video gambling has played out in Central Illinois. Coming Tuesday: A deeper study of the outcomes of video gambling on neighborhood government budgets.

As the state considers a playing expansion Gov. J.B. Pritzker hopes will deliver in $2 hundred million in sales subsequent economic 12 months, one Bloomington-Normal woman said the social charges far outweigh any financial gain.

We’ll call her Susan. GLT is granting her this protection because she concerns about her process. Susan is a problem gambler. She calls it the silent killer.

Gambling Expansion

“People will speak about meth, heroin, and opioids, and I am no longer minimizing any of that. Any addiction is horrible no matter what,” she said. “But you may see any person excessive, under the influence of alcohol, and you can see that. It’s seen. But the chemical compound within the brain is the same, the pleasure middle, all of it goes haywire when the addiction is in full.”

You wouldn’t see it from looking at her, but simply 10 years in the past, Susan turned into losing hundreds of heaps of bucks playing at slot machines.

She’s clean now. As an addict, Susan stated the idea of any gambling expansion scares her not just for non-public motives, but for the complete community.

“You’re asking for more troubles. You’re now not supporting the community; you’re hurting the community. Because now you’ve got people like me, and there’s such a lot of gamblers accessible, who will think that they can take that remaining little bit of cash they have got and blow it on the playing, after which the nation will choose up the tab for their housing, meals, garb, their youngsters, they’re scientific,” she said. “You’re in no way gaining something. It’s much like a hamster on a wheel. And the cycle keeps.”

Combined, Bloomington and Normal have extra than 300 video gambling terminals. Normal licenses about 20% of the whole.

The city sets limits on the terminals’ location, just like the allowed distance from colleges, churches, and home regions. In truth, that makes it very hard to feature any extra.

Bloomington is in limbo on its terminal policies. Last month the city council voted to extend a moratorium on video playing, freezing the terminals’ variety till Sept. 1. The council hopes Illinois legislators will decide on the statewide expansion through then.

Gambling addiction researcher and Illinois State University Professor Cindy Kerber was a strong voice in curtailing the variety of video terminals within the town. She said gambling’s social fees include improved crime, need for authorities-funded services, and enterprise-related charges like loss of task productiveness, bad attendance, and elevated unemployment.

Kerber said not all gambling is inherently bad.

“People may gamble recreationally and now not genuinely have any troubles related to it. A way that people might gamble recreationally without having issues would be to determine a fixed amount of cash that they are willing to spend on gambling, and then to stick to that,” Kerber said.

But she said there are continually dangers of turning an amusing hobby into dependancy.

“However, every so often the spirit of the venue and the exhilaration of participating inside the activity, humans will make exceptions to those guidelines,” Kerber said. “So some of the examples of problems would be spending extra than they supposed to, mendacity to the circle of relatives participants and buddies approximately the behaviors that happened whilst playing, borrowing money to repay gambling money owed, and greater critical worries might be committing against the law.”

The Path To Addiction

At the peak of her addiction, Susan stated she checked off all the packing containers.

“I became too far gone. I become mendacity, stealing, and manipulating all of us that got here throughout my path,” Susan said. “I had a hoop going around at paintings to get me cash. ‘I’ll pay you back in weeks whilst we get paid.’ I might pay them again, after which two days later tell them that we were out of rest room paper and bread and milk, my husband wasn’t running, we wished money.”

Then, Susan stated, she might take the cash directly to the online casino. She stated her addiction didn’t start that manner. It began with a form of playing; most recollect harmless: scratch-off tickets.