State’s all-in gambling expansion offers new temptation for those struggling to stay out

They’re pharmacists and nurses, doctors and dentists, lawyers and laborers, retirees and millennials.

Some have master’s degrees. Others dropped out of high school.

They come from 38 states, with more than 1,000 calling Chicago home. Each one has a game of choice, be it blackjack or bingo, that has contributed to personal losses.

Those financial hits range from a few hundred dollars to more than $1 million.

And the 13,584 people registered as of this week in Illinois’ voluntary casino Self-Exclusion Program represent only a small fraction of the number of gambling addicts in the state, gaming opponents say.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” says Les Bernal, national director of the Stop Predatory Gambling advocacy group. “Most people who have a problem never come forward.”

Those compulsive gamblers who do try to ban themselves by signing up for the confidential list — which has been maintained by the Illinois Gaming Board since 2002 — aren’t barred from entering any of the state’s 10 existing casinos.

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