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Panel: No around-the-clock casino gambling

Visitors play slot machines former Empress Casino Joliet.  |  File photo

Visitors play the slot machines at the former Empress Casino in Joliet. | File photo

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Updated: November 26, 2013 6:33AM

Gamblers at Illinois’ 10 casinos must take a break whether they like it or not after the state’s gaming board decided Thursday not to allow them to stay open around the clock.

Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe said at a meeting that a request to allow casinos open 24 hours a day — two hours longer than current operating hours — had been denied.

Jaffe said in a brief statement the board heard statements both for and against expanding the hours and also had received written statements, and made its decision “having taken into consideration all the information presented to the board.” Jaffe did not elaborate in his brief statement or during the meeting, according to spokesman Gene O’Shea.

The Illinois Casino Gaming Association had pushed to extend the hours, arguing that letting the casinos stay open would bring the casinos desperately needed revenue and would help prevent gamblers from taking their business to neighboring states where 24-hour gambling is allowed. In East St. Louis, for example, the casino is open between 8 a.m. and 6 a.m., while just across the Mississippi River, the four casinos are always open.

Further, the group has said that extending the 22-hour maximum levels the playing field with video machines that operate 24 hours a day at truck stops.

Association spokesman Tom Swoik has said that extending the hours would add about $5 million in annual state income. Since 2007, excluding the newest and most profitable Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois’ casinos have lost 38 percent in revenue and 2,000 employees, he said.

On the other side, those who argued against extending casino hours say the two-hour break may be the only thing that prevents a sleepless, endless binge at slot machines or card tables by gambling addicts.

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