The city of Crestwood, Illinois, is using its share of video gambling revenue to give youth sports a boost in the town, according to the Chicago Tribune. The Video Gaming Act, established in 2009 by the Illinois state legislature, legalized the placement of up to five video gambling terminals in licensed alcohol-serving establishments, truck stops, and veterans and fraternal establishments beginning in 2012.
And now, that’s about to translate into big money for youth sports. Beginning next year, half of the town’s revenue from video gaming – estimated at about $150,000 -- will be used to help offset the costs of registration for village-organized kids’ sports such as baseball, football, soccer and cheerleading. (The other half of the revenue will go to the town’s police pension fund.) Registration fees, which vary from $25 to $175, depending on the sport, will be waived for parents who can prove they live in Crestwood.
“Parents with children in sports think the move will bolster participation, particularly among parents of younger children who might not want to commit to the registration fee if they're unsure their child is really interested in the sport,” wrote Mike Nolan for The Tribune. “The fee waiver/reimbursement program will apply only to registration fees and won't cover other costs, such as uniforms. This year, about 350 children who reside in Crestwood are taking part in sports and have paid total registration fees of more than $29,000.”
Most of the fees will wind up benefitting Crestwood’s Mid-Crest Panthers football and cheerleading programs. Proponents say they believe the new policy will encourage more participation in youth sports, and may allow the town to expand its youth sporting program in coming years.
The original goal of the Video Gaming Act was to raise money for state and municipal programs, and so far, it would appear to have worked. To date, $19.6 billion has been bet at Illinois video gambling terminals. Patrons received $18 billion in payouts, leaving $390.7 million in tax revenue for the State of Illinois and $78.1 million for local governments. State tax revenues from video gambling increased 62 percent in fiscal 2015, netting the state $200.7 million, according to the Illinois Gaming Board, compared with $123.4 million in fiscal 2014.
Not everyone is happy about the legislation. The advent of casino gambling and video gambling has hurt racetrack betting in the state. There are allegations of corruption and kickbacks in the casino, riverboat and video gambling legislation that circle back, in part, to Illinois’ disgraced former Governor Rod Blagojevich. But for communities with financial needs, the video gambling revenue has been something of a blessing.
"Many municipalities have benefited from video gaming because it has proven to be a good source of additional revenue for funding budgetary obligations," Joe McCoy, legislative director for the Illinois Municipal League, told the State Journal Register. "Another positive feature of the video gaming law is that it respects local control. Not every community desires to allow video gaming within its borders, and the law allows each community to make the choice of whether to allow video gaming or not."