A new kind of machine is arriving in nearly 100 bars, restaurants, fraternal and veterans’ establishments and truck stops with liquor licenses in Illinois that have been approved for state licenses for video gambling. Hundreds more are waiting for approval. As a result, the Illinois Gaming Board estimates up to 75,000 machines could be installed throughout the state within a year.
It’s been a long wait for many. Video gambling was approved by the state legislature in 2009 as a means to raise $375 million annually to help fund a $31 billion construction program to fix schools, roads, bridges and other transportation projects. A lawsuit, contract bidding process mistakes and other roadblocks prevented the legislation from moving forward for years. In its defense, Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O’Shea said, “It’s a totally new industry,” and putting all the pieces in place has been a huge challenge.
O’Shea said the machines started being shipped out on June 24. He said the board anticipates the games will go live by September 3, following two weeks of testing at five sites.
Establishments with unapproved video gaming machines must remove them by August 20 or they will be subject to seizure. Each site can install up to five machines, and the host communities will receive 5 percent of net income after winnings are paid; the state will receive 25 percent and the remainder will be split among business owners and machine operators.
Communities may opt out of allowing the machines. However, several Illinois communities have reversed bans on video gambling to take advantage of potential revenues. Springfield, Quincy and Round Lake all voted in July to allow video gambling. Chicago bans the games, and officials said there are no plans to reverse that. Urbana did not prohibit video gambling but passed several restrictions.
The casino industry does not consider the video gambling machines to be a competitive threat. Ted Swoik of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association said video gambling already was taking place in bars. “This gives the state a chance of getting some of the taxes,” he said.
In other Illinois news, the Illinois Lottery received Level 2 certification from the World Lottery Association, based on the lottery’s high standards of corporate and social responsibility, including its message regarding responsible play, the self-exclusion list and the Problem Gaming Hotline on all tickets and marketing materials.