Lake County uses gambling revenue to fight gambling addiction

Video gambling machines are often used to fill holes in the budget or pay staff salaries, it can be tricky if the income isn’t reliable, as governments learned when casino revenue started to drop.

In Lake County, however, the money is going for grants to local nonprofit groups that provide gambling addiction treatment or mental health services for low-income residents.

More nonprofits will be eligible under a recently revised county policy, and there’s expected to be more money to go around, too.

While funding for social services has been tight since the state’s two-year gap without a budget ended in 2017, agencies in Lake County are getting a boost.

Unlike most other local governments that collect taxes on video gambling terminals, Lake County earmarks all the revenue for social service programs, to the tune of $545,150 last year.

In July, the county board made the grants available to more social service agencies. Now, behavioral services and gambling addiction programs can seek multiyear funding — an important change because many smaller organizations rely on consistent funding to attract other grants or donations, county officials said.

Additionally, the state expects Lake County to get almost $150,000 more this year from video gambling.

County board member Tom Weber of Lake Villa said the changes are consistent with the board’s vision for use of the revenue when the policy was enacted in 2013.

“This county board was forward-thinking enough to commit 100 percent of the funds to go toward mental health and addiction,” he said at last month’s board meeting. “And I just think that’s a statement to the commitment this board has to the residents … and the problems that may arise.”