Gambling regulators in Illinois recently debated whether it would be wise to let the state's casinos stay open 24 hours a day. Their final answer: No. Illinois casinos have never been permitted to operate 24 consecutive hours and it appears that regulation is here to stay. The decision was not a clear-cut one. Some regulators, like Tom Swoik of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, fought hard for the maximum expansion of Illinois gambling hours. Others pressed for the continuation of the two-hour break each morning when Illinois casinos close, arguing that this short respite helps protect addicts from sleepless, out-of-control gambling binges.
The decision to prohibit 24-hour casino operation was announced in late October by Aaron Jaffe, chairman of the state's gaming board. Jaffe indicated that the board carefully examined the issue from both sides before making its final decision.
The Pros of 24-Hour Illinois Casinos
Although the proponents of 24-hour operation in Illinois did not get what they wanted, they made a valiant attempt at arguing the following points:
- Because truck stop video machines in Illinois are allowed to run 24 hours per day, it only seems fair that casinos should be allowed to do the same.
- The Illinois budget is hurting. At the end of the 2013 fiscal year, the state was at least $6 billion behind in payments. Increasing gambling minutes would pad the state's skimpy budget considerably.
- Keeping casinos open around the clock would prevent Illinois gamblers from road-tripping to other casinos in nearby states. Gambling facilities just across the Mississippi River, for example, are open all the time and are likely to get more customers than the ones that temporarily close.
- The well-being of problem gamblers should not be an issue that prevents the initiation of 24-hour casinos. Effective regulations and restrictions that protect addicts are already in place.
The Cons of 24-Hour Illinois Casinos
Those who were against round-the-clock casino operation in the state argued the following points:
- Problem gamblers need respite from the gambling atmosphere. They need time to sleep and a way to distance themselves, if only for a few hours, from out-of-control spending.
- The regulations and restrictions that supposedly “protect” addicts are not as effective as proponents say they are. Addicts need a mandated break from round-the-clock gambling.
- The social costs do not outweigh the financial benefits of this proposal.
How Other Regions Handle the 24-Hour Issue
The glitzy casinos of Las Vegas are open day and night. The bustling casinos of Atlantic City are open around the clock. Outside of these two popular gambling Mecca, however, not every gambling facility is open for business 24 hours per day.
In Macau, most facilities are open all the time, but a handful are not. This comes as a surprise to some, as the casinos of Macau far exceed the casinos of Las Vegas in terms of business and profits.
Each state in the U.S. can decide for itself whether it wants to legalize 24-hour gambling. Maryland recently passed a proposal that will allow its casinos to stay open day and night; previously, they had been closing at 2 a.m. on weeknights and 4 a.m. on weekends. Colorado accepted a similar ballot proposal in 2009.
Question 7: Expanding Maryland's Casino Landscape
Prior to December of 2012, Maryland's casinos did not operate on a 24-hour basis. The buildings closed at 2 a.m. on weeknights and 4 a.m. on weekends.
In November of 2012, Maryland voters gave the thumbs up to “Question 7”, a loaded ballot issue which expanded gambling hours. It also provided for the addition of a sixth casino to the state's repertoire and the introduction of table games to the public. Citizens were repeatedly told that, if passed, the measure would significantly bolster public education funding. It was projected that, if the measure passed, $60 million would be generated for public education the following year and that revenue would escalate to $199 million by 2019.
Although the extension of casino hours to 24/7 was part of the Question 7 package, it was not voters' primary focus. The desire for increased education funding sparked the changes, which focused heavily on the opening of a sixth gaming facility. Nevertheless, when Question 7 passed, the hours of all Maryland's casinos were extended.
Amendment 50: Colorado's Fight to Keep Casinos Alive
2008 was a poor performance year for Colorado's gambling facilities. Profits descended to the lowest levels they'd seen in the state's 17-year gaming history. Blame was laid on the new recession, rising gas prices, and the fact that smoking had been banned in all gaming facilities. Something had to be done to save the industry. That something was called “Amendment 50”.
Initiated by the people, Amendment 50 changed the state's constitution to allow for the 24-hour operation of casinos. It also made craps and roulette available to the public and raised maximum bets from $5 to $100. A generous 78 percent of the revenue seen by the amendment was promised to Colorado's community colleges. At the time of enactment, it was projected that the positive effects of this revenue would start being felt at the colleges by 2011.
Similar to the naysayers of Illinois, critics of the Colorado amendment expressed fears that addicts would be hurt by the changes. Specifically, they worried that higher maximum bets and expanded hours would drain the resources of high risk gamblers even faster than before. Unlike Illinois, however, Colorado voted to pass their amendment and expand the freedoms of the casinos.
Most casinos are open around the clock, but a few still cling to the notion of a short respite during the wee hours of the night. In some areas, like Illinois, this respite is valued more than the potential revenue that could be earned by round-the-clock operation. In other areas, like Maryland and Colorado, voters have elected to eliminate the short break in favor of 24-hour casino operation.