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Five years after introduction, study says video gambling leading to crime upticks  

Friday, September 22, 2017 6:41:00 PM

By Cole Lauterbach | Illinois News Network

Cole Lauterbach

Reporter

Sep 13, 2017

ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK

September marked the five-year anniversary of video gaming legalization in Illinois. A new report claims that the societal costs of gambling may not be worth the tax revenue. 

According to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, Illinois received $1.3 billion in revenue from wagering in fiscal year 2017. Video gaming accounted for more than 20 percent of that. As of July 2017, there are 27,145 video gaming machines operating in Illinois. That's more than any other state, including Nevada.

Released in August, the study, titled "Can’t Stop the One-Armed Bandits: The Effects of Access to Gambling on Crime," found that being near at least one video gambling establishment is associated with an average 6.7 percent increase in property crime and a 7.5 percent spike in violent crime in the areas around Chicago. Despite the fact that video gaming isn't allowed in Chicago, there are more than 10,000 machines surrounding the city. That's the equivalent to eight casinos.

"Since the time video gambling was adopted, we estimate that it contributed an additional: 119.5 sexual assaults, 322.7 aggravated batteries, 992.7 robberies, 692.2 burglaries, 1,562.3 larcenies, and 1,123.7 motor vehicle thefts," the study states. "This amounts to a total cost of almost $55.5 million."

Nicolas Bottan, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois and the study's author, said there is rarely ever conclusive proof that something causes crime, but there is a strong correlation in regard to the proliferation of these machines.

"After these machines started popping up, that's when you see the trends in crime starting to diverge in these areas," he said. "It's mostly driven by problems related to problem gambling and addiction." 

Bottan authored the article with fellow UIUC grad students Andres Ham and Ignacio Sarmiento-Barbieri.

Mike Gelatka, past president of the Illinois Gaming Machine Operators Association, said the study was an overreach because video gambling is unlikely to cause increases in crimes like murders and sexual assaults.

"They were taking heavier crimes and pushing them into the statistics they were using relating to video gaming," he said. 

Gelatka said he's spent years communicating with police chiefs in Illinois and has never heard of video gaming resulting in an uptick in violence. 

Bottan says Gelatka's accusation is false.

"First we use all the data on crime incidents published by the Chicago Police department. Second, we focus on the types of crime that are typically used in the economics of crime literature using the FBI’s classification of crime types," he said. "We find that property crimes are mainly affected. Even within ‘violent’ crimes, the effects are mainly driven by robbery — a violent form of property crime." 

The Illinois municipality with the most gaming machines is Springfield, with 600. 

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Cook County Board pushes potential beverage tax repeal vote into October  

Friday, September 22, 2017 6:35:00 PM

By Dan McCaleb | Illinois News Network

Dan McCaleb

News Director

Sep 13, 2017

ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK

Tim Banks is director of business operations for four Culver's restaurants in the Cook County suburbs of Chicago.

During the public comment period of Wednesday's Cook County Board meeting, Banks told commissioners that the penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks and other beverages is taking a toll on his restaurants because consumers are going elsewhere. 

"Unfortunately, it influences the choice of what town they purchase it in," he said. And Banks wasn't just talking about fountain drinks. "It is moving the purchase of the whole meal to another county, resulting in lower sales at Cook County businesses and lower tax revenue for the county."

As a result, Banks said his ownership group made the decision not to grow in Cook County until its business climate changes. Many other business owners and operators echoed Banks' comments Wednesday.

One by one, supporters and opponents of the penny-per-ounce tax lined up to speak their minds, dozens in total.

The tax was approved last November after County Board President Toni Preckwinkle broke an 8-8 tie to implement it. It added 68 cents to the cost of a two-liter bottle and $1.44 to the cost of a 12-pack of canned soda when it went into effect Aug. 2 of this year.

A possible repeal of the widely unpopular tax was on the board's agenda, but at Wednesday's meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to send it to the Oct. 10 Finance Committee for further discussion. The full County Board next meets Oct. 11.

Nine votes are needed to rescind the tax. If that happens, Preckwinkle, whose support has remained steadfast, could then veto the repeal. Eleven votes would be required for an override.

An August poll of more than 1,100 registered voters in Cook County showed 87 percent of respondents disapproved of the tax. 

Supporters of the tax say sugary drinks lead to childhood obesity and health problems such as diabetes and heart ailments.

Kimberly Johnson, who works as a Head Start administrator in Cook County, urged commissioners to vote against repealing the tax.

"I know firsthand the dangers of sugary drinks," Johnson said. "Childhood obesity is strongly associated with health risks [such as diabetes and heart disease]... We have to start thinking about the children."

Brenda Parker, a grandmother of four and life insurance specialist, also supports the tax.

"Health issues stemming from sugary drinks "are negatively affecting them from being insured," Parker said. "These chronic diseases are preventable."

Worth Village President Mary Werner said the tax was hurting businesses in her community.

"The last thing we need is more empty storefronts," Werner said.

When asked if she was concerned about sugary drinks affecting children's health, she replied, "I don't believe it is the government's business. ... I truly believe this does not have anything to do with the health of children. ... My grandchildren don't need to be protected from me."

Werner also noted that dozens of beverages without sugar, including diet drinks and sports beverages such as Gatorade, are assessed the tax.

Because of federal law, consumers who use SNAP cards, or food stamps, are exempt from paying the tax. More than 1 million Cook County residents qualified for SNAP benefits in 2014.

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McCaleb: Don't let New York billionaire influence soda tax revote  

Friday, September 22, 2017 6:15:00 PM

By Dan McCaleb | Illinois News Network

News Director

Sep 12, 2017

Bottom of FormCook County residents and retailers overwhelmingly hate the sugary drink tax foisted on them last month.

No amount of money spent defending it is going to change that.

That's why it would be prudent for Cook County commissioners to listen to their constituents instead of New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who is attempting to influence the outcome of a vote on a potential repeal of the penny-per-ounce tax.

Yes, commissioners have a second chance to do the right thing and undo the damage of their razor-thin decision from last November, when Taxer-in-Chief Toni Preckwinkle broke an 8-8 tie to approve the penny-per-ounce tax.

Nine votes will be needed to rescind the tax. If that happens, Preckwinkle, the County Board's president, likely is to veto the repeal. Eleven votes then would be needed to override.

That won't be easy, particularly with Bloomberg throwing his fortune around.

The world's 10th-richest man according to Forbes magazine, Bloomberg is doing what he can to help keep Preckwinkle's tax in place. He's spent $5 million of his own money on an online and TV advertising campaign trying to change public opinion about the tax.

Perhaps more importantly, Bloomberg has vowed to help those commissioners who support the tax to get re-elected, despite its unpopularity.

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Cook County soda tax takes sales, jobs toll as consumers shop elsewhere  

Friday, September 22, 2017 4:58:00 PM

By Michael Carroll | Illinois News Network

Sep 11, 2017

ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK

Retailers are seeing sharp declines in sales and have laid off employees as a result of Cook County’s new tax on sweetened beverages, which took effect last month.

“It’s affecting us big time,” said Bill Daker, president of Cool Mountain Beverages Inc. in Des Plaines, which markets specialty sodas in the region. “Retailers have stopped taking in any kinds of new brands.”

Daker’s company has had to lay off one driver, and one of his manufacturing partners has had three weeks of down time in the wake of the beverage tax, he told Illinois News Network.

During the first week of the tax taking effect, sales data from 21 stores in Cook County show declines of 6 percent to 39 percent. Declines in Cook County border areas are among the most pronounced, according to the Can the Tax Coalition, as many county residents seem to be opting to purchase sweetened beverages and other grocery items in neighboring counties or even Indiana. Stores in border areas have reported a jump in beverage sales.

“What we have heard from retailers across the county is that they are experiencing significant declines in beverage sales that are hitting their businesses hard,” David Goldenberg, spokesman for the Can the Tax Coalition, told Illinois News Network.

For many small, independent minimarts and corner stores, the soda tax is putting their businesses at risk of closing, Goldenberg said.   

“There’s a series of things that are happening,” he said. “You’ve got overwhelming outrage from Cook County residents, almost 90 percent of whom oppose the tax.”

An ordinance in Cook County has been introduced to repeal the beverage tax, which adds 1 cent per ounce to the cost of sweetened drinks in the county. As a result, the cost of 2-liter soft drinks rose 67 percent, and the cost of gallon jugs of sweetened ice tea and other beverages is up 43 percent.

The repeal could be taken up for a vote by the Cook County Board during a meeting this week. At that point, commissioners would have a choice of siding with the people and businesses of Cook County or with Board President Toni Preckwinkle and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been a key supporter of sweetened beverage taxes, Goldenberg said.

Tony’s Finer Foods, which operates 13 stores in Cook County, reported that beverage sales were down nearly 29 percent from Aug. 2 to Aug. 6, compared to a similar period in 2016, according to Can the Tax.

And Martin Sandoval, general manager of Food Market La Chiquita, has warned that sales declines could lead him to either reduce employee hours or lay off some workers.

Other retailers are scaling back their soda shelf space due to the tax, according to Daker.

Supporters of the beverage tax say it’s designed to improve the health of county residents by dissuading them from consuming sugary beverages, which have been linked to diseases such as diabetes.

“It’s not that we’re saying they’re completely wrong about sugar,” Daker said. “But they’re unfairly targeting the beverage industry. It’s low-hanging fruit.”

If county officials were serious about reducing sugar consumption, they would have placed a smaller tax on all products containing sugar, including snack items such as candy, he said.

He predicts that with so many residents opting not to buy groceries in Cook County, the tax will ultimately backfire.

“Cook County is actually going to lose money on this whole deal,” Daker said.

State lawmakers who represent Cook County and neighboring regions have introduced legislation that would effectively ban the beverage tax by pre-empting counties from imposing them.

“When I see sales declines in the 35- to 40-percent range … that impacts the bottom line pretty dramatically,” Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville, one of the sponsors of legislation to repeal the tax, told Illinois News Network.

The likelihood grows that mom-and-pop shops in the county will go out of business, Wehrli said, noting that the repeal effort is bipartisan.

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Alcohol Abuse Declines Among All Age Groups According to New U.S. Government Report 

Friday, September 08, 2017 4:35:00 PM

Source: Distilled Spirits Council

September 7, 2017

Alcohol abuse trends among all age groups declined in 2016 compared to the prior year, according to the newly-released National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

The survey showed marked declines in binge drinking and heavy drinking among all adult age group breakdowns. (Report tables)

"The distilled spirits sector is committed to promoting moderate and responsible drinking by adults, and this new government report shows such efforts are having a positive effect," said Distilled Spirits Council President & CEO Kraig R. Naasz. 

Naasz noted that the spirits sector has been a part of this progress through its individual company education efforts and collective efforts, such as the Council's, DrinkinModeration.org.

Additionally, the survey showed underage drinking among individuals aged 12 to 20 dropped to a new historic low in the survey, declining 32 percent over the past decade. 

NSDUH, issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is a scientific annual survey of approximately 67,500 people throughout the country, aged 12 and older. 

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Self-driving cars are 'significant growth opportunity' for alcoholic beverages, Morgan Stanley says 

Friday, September 08, 2017 4:34:00 PM

 Morgan Stanley predicts shared and autonomous vehicles will add 80 basis points to annual alcoholic beverage sales growth for the next 10 years.

 

Self-driving car "technology could help address the mutual exclusivity of drinking and driving in a way that can significantly enhance the growth rate of the alcohol market and on-trade sales at restaurants," the firm's analyst says.

 

Source: CNBC

Tae Kim

September 7th

 

There are more ways to trade the autonomous driving trend than you might think, according to a top Wall Street firm.

 

Morgan Stanley shared its out-of-the-box ideas and analysis on the potential implications of self-driving cars to other consumer industries Thursday.

 

"Shared and autonomous vehicles could expand the total addressable market of alcoholic beverages while reducing the incidence of traffic fatalities and accidents," analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a report to clients entitled "Shared autonomous mobility: The solution to drinking and driving?"

 

Self-driving car "technology could help address the mutual exclusivity of drinking and driving in a way that can significantly enhance the growth rate of the alcohol market and on-trade sales at restaurants ... [It is a] significant growth opportunity for alcoholic beverage firms, particularly on-trade, premium and beer," he added.

 

The analyst cited how alcohol-related deaths accounted for 29 percent of U.S. traffic fatalities in 2015, which the CDC said cost the economy more than $44 billion. He estimates self-driving cars and autonomous vehicles can free up drinkers to consume one incremental alcoholic beverage per week on average, which will add 80 basis points of annual revenue growth to the industry's sales for the next 10 years. The current global market size for alcoholic beverages is $1.5 trillion, according to the firm.

 

Morgan Stanley also estimates there are 600 billion passenger hours currently spent in automobiles and 380 billion hours spent drinking alcohol.

 

There will be "more opportunities to drink before getting in the car. [And] more opportunities to drink while in the car," he wrote.

 

Jonas specifically cited Constellation Brands, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Diageo, Brown-Forman and Kweichow Moutai as the "best positioned" beverage stocks in Morgan Stanley's research coverage to trade the self-driving investment theme.

 

He added restaurant companies such as BJ's Restaurants, Buffalo Wild Wings and Brinker will benefit because alcohol represents 10 to 20 percent of their sales.

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Even without $15 an-hour, Illinois' minimum wage is still higher 

Friday, September 08, 2017 4:32:00 PM

By Benjamin Yount | Illinois News Network

Sep 1, 2017

 

ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK

Southern Illinois Senator Paul Schimpf says there's a simple reason why he voted against at $15 an-hour minimum wage and why he's glad Governor Rauner vetoed it: People can drive from southern Illinois to Missouri, Indiana, or Kentucky is less than an hour.

Even without a $15 an-hour minimum wage, Illinois' starting pay for new workers is still higher than our neighbors.

"The minimum wage in Missouri is $7.70, the minimum wage in Indiana and Kentucky is $7.25," Schmipf said. "This legislation would have raised out minimum wage up to $15 an hour. That's almost double what Missouri is, and it's more than twice what Indiana and Kentucky's minimum wage is."

Schmipf said business make decisions based on wages, but also decide where to locate because of other business costs. They're higher in Illinois as well.

"Here in southerwestern Illinois, we are in very close proxmety to Missouri, Kentucky, and Indiana," Schmipf noted. "Companies can make a choice."

Governor Rauner said in his veto message that he scuttled the $15 an-hour minimum wage because it would hurt businesses and cost the state jobs.

Schmipf said he absolutely wants to see workers make more, but by having new and better jobs come to the state not because of some government order.

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Exclusive: Traffic fatalities linked to marijuana are up sharply in Colorado. Is legalization to blame?  

Friday, September 08, 2017 4:27:00 PM

Authorities say the numbers cannot be definitively linked to legalized pot

By David Migoya | dmigoya@denverpost.com | The Denver Post

PUBLISHED: August 25, 2017 at 10:01 am | UPDATED: August 25, 2017 at 10:31 pm

The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana has risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time, federal and state data show. A Denver Post analysis of the data and coroner reports provides the most comprehensive look yet into whether roads in the state have become more dangerous since the drug’s legalization.

Increasingly potent levels of marijuana were found in positive-testing drivers who died in crashes in Front Range counties, according to coroner data since 2013 compiled by The Denver Post. Nearly a dozen in 2016 had levels five times the amount allowed by law, and one was at 22 times the limit. Levels were not as elevated in earlier years.

Last year, all of the drivers who survived and tested positive for marijuana use had the drug at levels that indicated use within a few hours of being tested, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation, which compiles information for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

The trends coincide with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado that began with adult use in late 2012, followed by sales in 2014. Colorado transportation and public safety officials, however, say the rising number of pot-related traffic fatalities cannot be definitively linked to legalized marijuana.

Positive test results reflected in the NHTSA data do not indicate whether a driver was high at the time of the crash since traces of marijuana use from weeks earlier also can appear as a positive result.

But police, victims’ families and safety advocates say the numbers of drivers testing positive for marijuana use — which have grown at a quicker rate than the increase in pot usage in Colorado since 2013 — are rising too quickly to ignore and highlight the potential dangers of mixing pot with driving.

“We went from zero to 100, and we’ve been chasing it ever since,” Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson said of the state’s implementation of legalized marijuana. “Nobody understands it and people are dying. That’s a huge public safety problem.”

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Federal judge invalidates Obama-era overtime rule 

Friday, September 08, 2017 3:58:00 PM

Though rule changes were frozen, decision will impact proposed rewrite

Lisa Jennings | Aug 31, 2017

A U.S. District Court judge in Texas on Thursday dismissed an Obama administration attempt to expand federal overtime rules, saying the Department of Labor relied too heavily on a salary threshold to determine exemption.

The expanded overtime rule had already been put on hold with a preliminary injunction just days before it was scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1. The late November injunction followed lawsuits filed by a coalition of 21 states and various business advocacy groups challenging the DOL’s authority in expanding the rule.

Judge Amos Mazzant III’s ruling on Thursday granted summary judgment in the case filed by the Plano Chamber of Commerce and more than 55 business groups.

In his order, Mazzant concluded that the proposed changes to the overtime rule had overstepped Congress’ intentions in determining who should be exempt from overtime pay.

 

The original intent was meant to exempt workers with executive, administrative or professional capacity duties, but the Obama-era rule relied too heavily on salary without regard for job duties, Mazzant wrote.

“If Congress was ambiguous about what specifically constituted an employee subject to the [executive, administrative and professional] exemption, Congress was clear that the determination should involve at least a consideration of an employee’s duties,” Mazzant concluded. 

Had they gone into effect, the changes to the overtime rule would have doubled the salary level threshold used to determine eligibility for overtime pay for hourly workers from $23,660 to $47,476 annually. An estimated 4.2 million middle-class workers would have benefited.

The changes would also have created an automatic mechanism for adjusting the minimum salary threshold every three years. In his opinion Thursday, Mazzant said those automatic increases would have been unlawful.

The ruling comes a few months after Department of Labor officials had already indicated plans to rewrite the overtime rules

In July, the DOL opened up a 60-day period of public comment as the agency went back to the drawing board on overtime regulations.

At the time, the department indicated a salary test was still under consideration, though the level set by the Obama-era rule was seen as too high.  

Mazzant’s ruling, however, could force reconsideration of a salary-level test.

The National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Law Center praised the court’s decision, agreeing that the DOL under the previous administration had overstepped its authority.

“Today’s decision to invalidate the rule demonstrates the negative impacts these regulations would have had on businesses and their workers,” said Angelo Amador, executive director of the Restaurant Law Center. “We will continue to work with DOL on behalf of the restaurant industry to ensure workable changes to the overtime rule are enacted.”

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New York billionaire spending millions in ads in Illinois defending Cook County pop tax  

Friday, September 08, 2017 3:47:00 PM

By Cole Lauterbach | Illinois News Network

 ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK

The world's 10th richest man, according to Forbes, is spending money on advertisements telling people across Illinois to let Cook County's tax on sweetened drinks continue to exist. That's despite its unpopularity and an effort by state lawmakers to ban it. 

Illinoisans as far south as Springfield are seeing political ads paid for by New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg that warn about the consequences of sugary drinks and their ties to obesity. 

"Soda companies are targeting our children and every day I see the results," Chicago physician Dr. Javette Orgain says in one of the ads. "If we won't protect our kids, who will?"

Bloomberg's spending millions here to help public perception of Cook County's wildly unpopular penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened drinks that took effect this summer. The Cook County Board will meet next week when an effort to repeal the tax is expected to be voted upon. 

Bloomingdale Republican State Rep. Christine Winger's district straddles the Cook County line. She thinks Bloomberg shouldn't interfere in local politics. She says the tax was never anything more than a cash grab. 

"This is the extreme of stepping in on local decisions when Bloomberg, with all the money he has, comes here and tries to control us here in Illinois," she said. "This tax is about the money. It's not about the kids to them." 

Winger and dozens of other lawmakers are sponsoring two bills that would ban taxing sugary drinks on a per-ounce basis, effectively killing Cook County's tax.

 

A recent poll showed the tax had an 87 percent disapproval rating among random voters. Bloomberg also ran ads supportive of Philadelphia's new soda tax this summer.

 

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