GLENWOOD | Cindy Ruscil, a Homewood resident who patronizes casinos in Joliet and Northwest Indiana when she feels the urge to gamble, thinks she has found a new place to spend her money.
She was one of several people Saturday taking advantage of the latest attraction at Glenwood Oaks Rib & Chop House, 106 N. Main St. The restaurant became one of the first area businesses to take advantage of changes in state law that now permit gambling devices in certain establishments.
Now, in addition to the ribs and steaks it offers accompanied on weekends by live music, Glenwood Oaks has video slot machines as well.
Many other businesses across Illinois await final reviews of their applications by the Illinois Gaming Board.
Moving from one machine to another in hopes of enhancing her luck, Ruscil said she likes the smaller scale of gaming at Glenwood Oaks, rather than at the casinos that are up to a half-hour car drive from her home.
“I think I like the atmosphere here better,” she said. “Sometimes, there are just too many people at the casinos.”
Mark LeRose, general manager of the restaurant that has been in business since 1974 (although restaurants have operated at that Main Street location since 1926), said Ruscil’s viewpoint is typical among those who have tried the new feature. To fit the five new machines near the bar, three booths were removed, he said.
While those three booths could have generated up to $20,000 during key months, he said he expects the 35 percent of gross receipts of gambling income will make the switch worthwhile.
“$20,000 is not bad, but this will help us more in the long run,” LeRose said.
LeRose said the slot machines have not caused any ruckus or behavioral problems.
“We’re not a ‘young people’ place, we’re 40 and over. We don’t get the problems that places with a younger crowd might,” he said.
Glenwood Oaks bartender Sam Barr said the machines haven't had a significant effect on alcohol sales.
“It is a mixed crowd” that gambles, she said, adding that the gamblers tend to focus on the machines rather than alcohol consumption. “Sometimes, they forget they even have a drink,” she said.
LeRose said state restrictions prevent his business from doing anything to encourage would-be gamblers to consume alcohol. But sometimes, alcohol isn't even an option for some patrons.
“Some people, particularly on the weekend, come in first thing in the morning and they just focus on the slot machines,” LeRose said.
The machines are set up in an area that is roped off and are not visible as one enters the restaurant – except for the small sign with an arrow pointing people towards the restaurant’s bar.
Their isolation is strengthened by the fact that prizes are not paid out by restaurant employees. A device resembling an automatic teller machine is set up next to the slot machines, and prizes are paid out in the form of slips of paper with a bar code.
Those slips are scanned by the device, which then pays out the winnings in cash.
“The idea is that no hands actually touch the cash,” LeRose said. “It’s to keep things even more secure.”