video gaming

Aaron- Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Springfield City Council wants to make sure the city’s many video gaming parlors are playing by the rules. 

Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign / Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker last month laid out his plan for a state budget.  But the Democratic governor is perhaps being too optimistic, counting on proposals for tax revenue sources that still need to be negotiated. One of those is the expansion of gambling and raking in the money from taxing and further regulating it. 

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

Video Gaming: Illinoisians Get a Piece of the Action

Jun 1, 2014

With their bright lights and chirping electronic sounds, the row of five slot machines could be in any casino in the world.

The seats are comfortable. The attendant is a kindly elderly woman who offers to get you something to drink. Within minutes, you’ve just won $10 on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

But make no mistake, this isn’t Las Vegas. Or even one of Illinois’ 10 riverboat casinos. This is a strip mall in central Illinois, just a few storefronts away from a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, a nail salon and a dollar store.

Those applying for video gaming licenses in the city will have deal with new parameters set up by the Springfield council.

Aldermen approved a measure that requires establishments with video gaming have to earn a least 60 percent of their revenue from food and beverage sales. 

Ward 6 alderman Cory Jobe says he’s hopeful no additional ordinances regulating video gaming will be needed.

Despite concerns over gambling parlors cutting into the bottom line of local bars and restaurants, the Springfield City Council last night approved zoning changes to allow more of the establishments to open shop.  Aldermen Cory Jobe voted in favor, even though he's pushing an ordinance to require video gambling only at places that earn 60 percent or more of revenue from food and beverage sales. 

Jobe says the city is skirting the spirit of the law.  But he says there’s no conflict in his vote.


If proceeds from video gaming were a coconut cream pie, Illinois municipalities would only get a taste. But if you added up those nibbles every month, it may be enough to notice an increasing waistline.

In December alone, Illinois municipalities that offer video gaming shared $1.8 million.

Video gaming machines starting spewing out the green in the fall of 2012. Illinois started with a few hundred gaming terminals. By the end of last year, there were more than 13,000 terminals in the state.

The issue of video gaming machines has created a divide in the town of Auburn. 

Mayor Barb Stamer cast a tie breaking vote against gambling earlier this year.  Now, she's changed her mind.  (UPDATE: 6:45 a.m. Tuesday) The matter came up at Monday's Auburn City Council meeting and Stamer cast the tie-breaking vote in favor.

Towns small and large have had to decide whether or not allowing the machines is worth the cut the communities will receive from gamblers.

Stamer spoke with WUIS' Sean Crawford on Illinois Edition:

Video Poker
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Last May, the Illinois General Assembly passed the state’s first capital construction program in 10 years. The National Conference of State Legislators called it the most comprehensive state-level job-creation plan in the country, and according to Gov. Pat Quinn, the program will generate 439,000 jobs in the next six years. To help pay for the $31 billion package, legislators voted to legalize video poker machines in thousands of bars, restaurants and truck stops throughout the state.

Charles N. Wheeler III
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Are we killing the goose that’s been laying golden eggs in the coffers of state and local governments for the last dozen years?

Since 1991, Illinois’ riverboat gaming industry has produced some $3.5 billion in tax revenues for the state and for the nine communities in which the floating casinos have docked.

But the ongoing bounty may be susceptible to a couple of worrisome trends documented in Illinois Gaming Board reports and in a new study from the Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission. The ominous portents:

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The video poker machines found in bars around Illinois are perfectly legal. What’s not is the widespread practice of gambling on those games.

So when bar owners collect money their patrons lose while betting on the machines, that cash goes unreported. And state government comes up empty — to the tune of an estimated $350 million each year. That’s an impressive sum for a state drowning in red ink and looking for a quick fiscal fix. At the same time, the deficit could be video poker gambling’s ticket to come out from under the table.