First-Ever Illinois Report Prompts Call for Consistent Problem Gambling Funding

The findings come after Illinois launched legal sports betting back in March 2020, as the state has grown into one of the larger-wagering jurisdictions in the U.S.

Last Updated: Jul 5, 2022 11:28 AM ET Read Time: 3 min
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More than 11% of Illinois adults either have a gambling problem or are at risk of developing one, according to a first-ever assessment of gambling in the state.

The recently released study from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) found that 68.4% of adult residents reported gambling in the past year, including in-person and online sports betting.

Moreover, the assessment estimated that 3.8% of adult Illinoisans, or around 383,000 people, were considered to have a gambling problem in 2021. Another 7.7% of the state’s population, or approximately 761,000 people, were estimated to be at risk of developing an addiction.

“It is so important that we have data on the patterns and depth of gambling across the state,” IDHS Secretary Grace B. Hou said in a press release. “For those who do struggle with gambling disorder, they seldom seek help and often hide their behavior from family members.”

The assessment found the most popular form of gambling in the Land of Lincoln remained the state lottery, with 54.2% of survey respondents reporting they had played in the past year. That was followed by gambling with friends (33%) and then wagering on organized sports and fights (15.3%).

The findings come after Illinois launched legal sports betting back in March 2020 and as the state has grown into one of the larger-wagering jurisdictions in the U.S.

In the press release, Dr. Hannah Carliner, lead author of the study, expressed “hope that the findings of this assessment will provide much-needed information for people working on prevention and treatment of problem gambling in Illinois, which will help them make data-informed decisions on how best to assist individuals on their road to recovery.”

Ways to help

The assessment was launched in July 2020 and relied on surveys, focus groups, interviews, and other methods to reach its findings. 

Among those study findings were that most problem gamblers (63.7%) tried to limit themselves. Unfortunately, only 35.8% were successful.

To address this, the IDHS recommended “providing consistent funding toward problem gambling prevention and services, increasing awareness about problem gambling and its symptoms, and improving access to holistic treatment for problem gambling.”

IDHS has budgeted $10 million next fiscal year to pay for these services and the report recommends earmarking 1% of annual gambling tax revenue for problem-gambling services. The state also provides intervention and recovery resources, with IDHS having funded 26 treatment programs.

Illinois sports betting explained

The IDHS study found that sports betting was most common for those who gamble weekly or daily, as the choice of 26.4% of respondents. However, Illinois had a rocky start to sports betting.

The first legal sportsbook in the state launched right around the time the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, but Illinois has since become one of the top betting states with a handle of $839 million in April. Online sportsbooks in Illinois recently received a boost as well, with the in-person registration requirement for mobile accounts ending this past March.

There are currently seven licensed online sportsbooks in Illinois:

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