A must read – keen insight to the gambling industry. The winners are the operators and government at the expense of the citizens.
Owners of one of Illinois’ largest video gambling companies are behind efforts to influence city politics, expand gambling and build a casino near land they control.
The first and only official truck stop in Waukegan sits on a lot so small that a tractor-trailer would have a hard time pulling in to pump gas, let alone parking for the night. It’s also located nearly 5 miles from the nearest interstate and is missing the kinds of amenities many truck drivers count on, such as a sit-down restaurant or showers.
But what the Waukegan Thorntons lacks as a truck stop, it more than makes up for as a video gambling destination. Its five slot and poker machines bring in more than $100,000 a month, making it not only Waukegan’s most lucrative video gambling spot but also one of the most profitable in Illinois.
The story of how this truck stop came to be a gambling gold mine, the story of why it’s even considered a truck stop, is one element in a brazen series of maneuvers over several years by a video slot and poker operator to squeeze money from a struggling city. It also offers a glimpse into how Illinois’ gambling expansion is playing out across the state, particularly in communities desperate for its promised riches.
Located on the banks of Lake Michigan 40 miles north of Chicago, Waukegan once teemed with people and industry. Good jobs and affordable housing drew immigrants from around the world. But like in so many other Rust Belt cities, manufacturing’s decadeslong decline bled resources from the local government, hammered small businesses and, according to U.S. Census data, eroded the population, which has fallen 2.6% since 2010, to just shy of 87,000.
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