Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Video Gambling's Spread in Illinois Raising Cash, Eyebrows; State Has Collected $210.8 Million in Tax Revenue since '12

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Video Gambling's Spread in Illinois Raising Cash, Eyebrows; State Has Collected $210.8 Million in Tax Revenue since '12

Article excerpt

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. * Since video gambling began in Illinois two years ago, the slot-like terminals have been showing up in places lawmakers never imagined floral shops, laundromats, liquor stores and gas stations. They're also now the main attraction at dozens of storefront bistros and cafes geared toward women.

Video gambling has become big business for the state, but it has also raised some second thoughts in the process.

Since the first terminal was turned on in 2012, it has generated $210.8 million in tax revenue for the cash-strapped state government and $42.2 million for local governments on more than $3 billion in wagered cash, according to the Illinois Gaming Board.

The terminals also have meant significant money for businesses, such as the Arabian Knights Farms and Training Center, an equestrian center in Willowbrook, southwest of Chicago. The horse barn makes most of its money on weddings and parties, which can be seasonal, owner Michael Vena said.

"There's no money in horses. ... In the middle of winter, this will help," Vena said, talking about the three gambling terminals tucked into a red-carpeted, plywood-walled room in his barn. They bring him $1,750 a month in profit.

One of the sponsors of the video-gambling bill when it was approved in Springfield in 2009 says the spread of the machines into some of these places isn't what he had in mind.

"It was never our intention to turn florists' shops into places for gambling," said Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie. "And so, it's something that needs to be looked at, for sure."

The intent was to legalize and regulate a business already operating illegally in many bars and social clubs. Under the law, the key requirement is a liquor license, with each license-holder eligible for three to five machines.

"The liquor distinction was something we put in there to keep some control over the amount (of terminals)," Lang said. …

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