Video gaming licenses approved for establishments in Urbana, Savoy and Newman

URBANA — Video gaming may be coming to Urbana, Savoy and Newman in August.

On Thursday, the Illinois Gaming Board approved video gaming licenses for 18 establishments in the state.

Among those locations getting state licenses are American Legion Post 71 in Urbana, Old Orchard Lanes in Savoy and Country Junction in Newman.

The Urbana American Legion was the only veterans or fraternal organization to get a video gaming license.

American Legion Commander and gaming manager Bruce Brown said the licenses are scheduled go into effect on Aug. 1.

"These machines work just like the machines at the riverboat in Peoria," Brown said. "You put money in, you play the game, and your winnings come spitting out."

Brown said the American Legion took out its unlicensed video machines in December.

"We won't survive if we don't have the machines," Brown said. "We can't make enough money off the bar to keep open."

Brown said he believes the machines will bring new customers to the Legion post.

"For example, my 85-year-old dad regularly goes to the riverboat in Peoria, and he will probably be coming here now," he said.

Brown estimates the five video machines will bring the post about $100,000 a year, with the city of Urbana getting 5 percent.

"Last weekend, we provided $3,000 of food for the Special Olympics and served food to the participants," Brown said. "With the extra money from the video gaming machines, we will be able to pay for more charitable work in the community."

Dan Ehlers, senior regional manager for Bloomington-based Prairie State Gaming, the vendor which will be providing the video machines at the American Legion, said the machines can offer to 12 different games each.

"So with five terminals here at the American Legion Post, there is a possibility of playing 60 different games," Ehlers said. "The games work just like they do at riverboats or casinos."

Dave McCleary, night manager at Old Orchard Lanes, said the bowling alley will have five machines, all located in the bar area.

"It should bring in some additional business," McCleary said. "People who come into the bar will have something to do. We've had a lot of people asking about the machines, and now we can tell them they are coming."

McCleary said he doesn't know how much income the machines will bring to Old Orchard Lanes.

"We're hoping it does pretty well, but we don't have any solid numbers."

McCleary said that Champaign-based Melody Music will serve as Old Orchard Lanes' gaming machine vendor.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Video Gaming Act in 2009, making video-gambling terminals legal at places like the American Legion Post and Old Orchard Lanes, but the implementation of the law was delayed until a court challenge had been settled.

"I'm thrilled to death. This has been over two years in the making to get to this point," Ehlers said. "Now the starting line is in sight, and the actions of the gaming board today (Thursday) have proven they are dedicated and committed to making it happen."

American Legion customer Anita Sims said she is excited about the prospects of getting video gaming.

"The Legion does a lot of good things for the community, and hopefully this will allow them to do a lot more," she said.

The American Legion Post still needs the approval of the Urbana City Council before video gaming can begin there.

Mike Monson, chief of staff for Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, said the city council will discuss the issue at its meeting at 7 p.m. July 2.

"Service organizations like the American Legion and the VFW have had similar machines without a detrimental effect," Prussing said on Thursday evening. "I don't think they have had a terrible effect on the community. We will try to consider what is reasonable and what is unreasonable."

Savoy Village Manager Dick Helton said no further approval is needed from the village board for Old Orchard Lanes can start offering video gaming.

"We don't require any licensing in Savoy," Helton said. "However, they would have to pay a $25 amusement fee per machine."

According to the Illinois Gaming Board website, the Newman City Council approved an ordinance on June 4 specifically approving video gaming in that community.

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ROB McCOLLEY wrote on June 21, 2012 at 11:06 pm
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I suppose lots of C-U residents don't know that "video gaming" has been paying out small jackpots for decades, right here in town.

Mike wrote on June 22, 2012 at 7:06 am

Or that none of those machines pay out in a "random" fashion. They have a percentage that can be set for how much to pay out. Back in the day I used to work in a tavern that had a few of them and the magic number was 55%. Enough to make money from the poor folks who played them (about 45% of ever dollar that went in each month came out as tax-free "shhh" profit) but just enough paid back out to keep people hooked. 

Of course, the people playing have no idea whether a machine is going to be ready to pay out sooner than later, but after work tavern owners and managers can see where that percentage is, and if the machine hasn't paid out in a while (e.g., say it has only paid out 40% for the past month), then the employees can plug in money after hours until the machine spits out a bunch of winnings and gets back up to where it is supposed to be percentage-wise.

What a racket. 

vcponsardin wrote on June 22, 2012 at 9:06 am
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Odd thing about gambling--the people who can actually afford to, usually know better than to throw their money away on such nonsense.  The rest just don't know any better.  But it's a free country.  And every adult should be allowed to make dumb choices, I suppose.

Sid Saltfork wrote on June 22, 2012 at 10:06 am

Who do you think manufactures the machines?  It was a wise move years ago to become a legitimate business.  It creates a secondary business for those who maintain, and service the machines also.  In the past; the machine was maintained, and emptied with a cut going to the establishment.  Now; the machine is maintained with a cut going to the establishment, and the government.  It sounds like a loss until you realize the increase in machines.  Quinn is worried about corrupt influences in the Illinois gaming industry?  Well, he will get some qualified appointees for the Gaming Board.  The Chicago Outfit was always different from the others in that it was diversified.  It was not restricted to one ethnic group.  It only needed corruption, and greed.