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Video Gambling Hits The Jackpot; But Attempt Made To Stall Video Poker Malls

Three years ago, the first video gaming machines popped up in Illinois bars, restaurants, and truck stops. 

You could say the business has hit the jackpot since.

Gamblers need not be near one of Illinois' ten casinos to play the slots.

There are some 20,730 stand-alone video poker machines scattered throughout the state.

Thanks to them, state government took in some $200 million dollars in the last fiscal year; that's a huge, $80 million increase from the year before.

Forecasters predict those numbers will continue to rise.

Chicago doesn't allow video gaming; even so there are more terminals in the Chicago metropolitan area than anywhere else in Illinois: according to a new state report, there are so many, it's the equivalent of six full-size casinos.

After Cook County, the most machines are in Winnebago, Lake, Will, and Sangamon Counties. The capital city of Springfield tops the list for most video gaming terminals in the state, with nearly 550.

Still, the report says all of the video gaming growth wasn't enough to offset gambling declines overall. Illinois saw losses in gambling at riverboats and on the Lottery.

The horse racing industry's also struggling; owners say that's because while video gaming's everywhere else, they've been forbidden from having slots at the tracks.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bob Rita, a Democrat from Blue Island, says he has a problem with a new video gaming phenomenon: strings of video cafes lined up next to one another; basically video gaming malls. "At what point ... you know, when you're putting multiple locations under one (roof) you're essentially creating a casino."

Rita says that isn't the intent of Illinois' law. He has filed a resolution asking the state gaming board to deny licenses to applicants looking to set up "casino malls."

The video gaming board is scheduled to meet next week.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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