PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Multiple commercials for sports betting apps aired during the Super Bowl and many heard about the spread, odds, covering, underdog and more on all the pre-game shows.

Sports betting in Illinois has only been legal for a few years, and it’s already a billion-dollar-a-month business.

Just like the high some people get from alcohol, drugs or sex, the euphoria of gambling can be too much to handle.


Before the high-tech slot machines, video gaming terminals and apps, The history of legalized gambling in Illinois goes back almost 100 years.

  • In 1927 the state legalized parimutuel betting, most often associated with horse racing
  • In 1971 bingo for charity
  • In 1974 Illinois started the state lottery
  • In 1990 came riverboat casinos
  • 2009 brought video gaming.
  • In 2019 legislation added six casino licenses, more video gaming terminals and sports gambling

Gambling Addiction

The most recent numbers available show in October 2022, sports betting in Illinois topped one billion dollars for the first time ever, and November was another record-breaking month.

Those aren’t the only numbers getting attention. Addiction experts said the excitement and ease of sports betting can be intoxicating.

“Sometimes winning can be the worst thing that happens because that individual believes I’m going to win all the time,” Gateway Foundation Gambling Disorder Program Director Shane Cook said. “So they continue to gamble chasing that euphoria they felt with the win and it doesn’t always work out that way.”

In December 2022, the Illinois Department of Human Services launched “Are You Really Winning?”, a new gambling addiction awareness campaign with help from the Gateway Foundation.

This comes after a first-of-it’s-kind problem gambling assessment that shows 3.8% of adult Illinoisans, approximately 383,000 people, are considered to have a gambling problem. An additional 7.7%, approximately 761,000 people, are at risk for developing a gambling problem.

One of those people is a Central Illinois man we’ll call John Doe. He started gambling on sports for fun and fast money. By the time he was old enough to go to the casino, it didn’t take long to get hooked.

“We may leave from the Par-A-Dice or a slot kiosk and say I’ll never do that again and what am I doing? I spent all my money,” Doe said. “Then we wake up the next morning and dust ourselves off and get some distance from that heartache and we go out and do it again.”

John has won a lot of money but lost even more. He estimated that he lost $500,000 over 30 years and his marriage. He said the simplicity of gambling, especially on your phone, makes the temptation even greater.

“We have these grand schemes, and when those don’t happen, we continuously chase that,” Doe said.

John finally got tired of losing and chasing losses, He goes to weekly gambler’s anonymous meetings and hasn’t gambled in five years.

“Finally got sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I finally got to the point where I needed to get help,” Doe said.

Warning signs of this silent addiction include:

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Spending a lot of time on the phone
  • Borrowing money
  • Being unable to relax

“It’s something we need to take a look at, make sure we’re vigilant with our loved ones and step in and suggest help when it’s needed or recognized,” Cook said.

Tax Revenue

What about all the tax money generated by gambling?

All lottery, casinos and sports betting revenue goes to state funds like “Rebuild Illinois” and the “Capital projects fund.”

Local governments get 15% of video gaming revenue.

Here is a breakdown of where some of the money is going:

  • Lottery: Common School Fund, the Capital Projects Fund, or special cause funds after the payment of prizes, agent commissions, and administrative costs.
  • Casinos: Education Assistance Fund.
  • Sports betting: Capital Projects Fund and Rebuild Illinois Projects Fund.
  • Video gaming: 85% to Capital Projects Fund, 15% to local governments.

If you need help

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER or text ILGAMB to 833234.

More information is also available on the Are you Really Winning website and the Illinois Department of Human Service’s Gambling Help page.