Video gambling revenue growing in first year

2013-10-20T00:00:00Z Video gambling revenue growing in first yearKurt Erickson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
October 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

SPRINGFIELD | Local businesses are seeing an increase in revenue thanks to the approval last year of video gambling.

Mark Lerofe, the general manager of Glenwood Oaks restaurant, 106 N. Main St. in Glenwood, said the presence of video poker machines have brought “a new dimension” to the business — which last year was one of the first in the south suburbs to install the gambling machines.

He admits the people who come to gamble have little interest in eating a meal, or even in having a drink at the bar.

“They’re coming to gamble. They get on a machine, and they stay for hours,” he said.

But that is not a negative, since Lerofe said they do not bother other customers and they add to the ambiance of the facility with its five gambling machines.

“The noises and the lights, it’s almost like Las Vegas,” said Lerofe, who estimated that maybe 50 people per week are passing through Glenwood Oaks to use the gambling machines. “It’s bringing in new people who might not have been part of our clientele before.”

At the state level revenues from video gambling have been on the upswing, too, as the burgeoning industry takes shape in its first year.

According to the Illinois Gaming Board, the machines generated $44 million in revenue for the state in Year One.

Local governments have received a total of about $9.2 million in revenues.

While the money was only trickling in when the program first started in September 2012, state and local revenues continue to rise each month as more machines come on line.

In August, for example, players fed $370 million into 9,380 machines across the state. Players won about $341 million of that back.

That translated into $7.2 million in revenue for the state and $1.4 million in revenue for local municipalities in August.

The 2009 law that legalized video gambling allows up to five terminals to be installed in the state’s 21,000 establishments that are licensed to serve alcohol for onsite consumption, or are truck stops.

Hoping for an increase in revenue is the Lan-Oak Lanes bowling alley, 2524 Ridge Road in Lansing, where Tom Genovese said gambling machines were installed on Tuesday after a license was issued by the Illinois Gaming Board on Sept. 19.

Genovese said he's already seen an increase of people visiting the bowling alley. He also said that the machines seemed to have the effect of keeping people in the facility for a longer time period.

“It gives them something else to do,” he said.

Initial projections showed legalizing video gambling could generate $375 million in annual revenue for the state. But, the lack of machines in Chicago — where video gambling is still illegal — has tempered those estimates.

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, which provides fiscal forecasts for the General Assembly, now says the yearly tally will be in the $100 million to $200 million range.

Times correspondent Gregory Tejeda contributed to this report.

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