Tom Kacich: Video gaming soars in Illinois

After one year in operation, video gaming in Illinois has grown from 61 terminals to 10,250 machines, and the amount wagered has soared from just over $1 million a month to almost $376 million last month.

The state gaming board is still approving new installations, at a rate of about 900 new terminals each month, so it's unclear how much bigger video gaming will become.

The video gambling in September yielded $7.4 million to the state, or about $89 million on an annual basis. Local governments got $1.48 million last month, or about $18 million yearly.

That's getting close to the projections made for full implementation of video gaming in Illinois.

In 2012 the Legislature's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability projected that estimated that once it was fully operational, video gaming could mean anywhere from $106 million to $197 million for the state's capital project fund, and between $21 million and $39 million for local governments.

And the yield so far has come without a single dollar being wagered in the city of Chicago. The city, and its 21 percent of Illinois' population, is still off-limits to video gaming, noted COGFA.

The impact to the state of Chicago's reluctance to allow video gaming could be anywhere from $60 million to $112 million a year, COGFA estimated.

That money is also lost to Chicago.

Champaign, Urbana, Danville, and Champaign and Vermilion counties are getting some money — not yet a windfall — from video gaming. Last month Champaign's share from 93 terminals at 21 sites amounted to $15,135 (about $180,000 annually). Urbana's was $7,909 from 27 terminals (about $95,000 a year). Danville's take from 55 terminals was $9,530 (about $114,000 a year). Vermilion County yielded $5,494 from 38 terminals and Champaign County got $4,363 from 14 terminals.

There's obviously a limit to video gaming's growth, however. In Danville, for example, there were just 14 video gaming terminals six months ago — about one-fourth the number today — but the yield to the city hasn't quadrupled. It hasn't even doubled, increasing from $5,858 a month to $9,530 a month. The amount played at Danville's top video gaming site in March — Snapper's Bar and Grill at the Turtle Run Golf Club — has dropped in that time from $827,365 to $551,725 in September. It was the same story at Champaign's top spot, Arrowhead Lanes, which dropped from $424,850 in March to $362,082 in September.

The top video gaming site in Champaign County is now Bunny's, a bar in downtown Urbana, with $620,000 in wagering in September. Snapper's is No. 1 in Vermilion County.

Statewide, the top wagering site is Bet EZ video poker, a video poker parlor in Machesney Park, a suburb of Rockford. More than $1.2 million was wagered there last month. No. 2 is the Chronister Oil Co. truck stop and convenience store in Bloomington where $1.08 million was wagered in September. The only other site over $1 million was K&R Jesters Inc., a restaurant in Waukegan.

Davis/Harold debates?

John Parrott, the McLean County Republican Party chairman, said he hopes that the two 13th Congressional District candidates, Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, and Urbana attorney Erika Harold, hold 14 debates — one in each county in the district — before the March primary election.

"It would give everybody an opportunity to see both candidates. I'd like to see them get it on the schedule and try to make it happen," said Parrott, who said he is neutral in the race.

He noted that Davis, Harold and other GOP candidates met in forums last year before the Republican county chairmen in the district appointed Davis to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, on the ballot.

"When we did the appointment process, we did a forum in McLean County and that forum idea eventually went to five or six other counties in the district. Since we set that precedent of at least letting the public hear the candidates, even though they had no vote in the appointment process, let's give them that opportunity again," he said.

Davis spokesman Andrew Flach said there hasn't been any discussion yet of debates or forums featuring the two candidates.

Droopy fundraising

As was reported last week, Harold's fundraising numbers were down in the last quarter compared with the previous quarter, from $78,285 to $72,619.

But so were Davis' — dropping from $454,8125 in the second quarter to $302,080 in the third. And Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, reported $186,928 in the last quarter after bringing in $355,177 in the second quarter.

They weren't alone among Republican candidates in Illinois congressional districts reporting weaker fundraising. Darlene Senger, who is running in the 11th Congressional District where Democratic Rep. Bill Foster is the incumbent, reported $77,580 in receipts in the third quarter compared with $82,456 in the second quarter.

Former Rep. Robert Dold, seeking to unseat Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider in the 10th District, raised $317,836 in the third quarter after bringing in $546,188 in the second quarter.

Democrats weren't immune; Rep. William Enyart, running in a district including much of southwestern Illinois, dropped from $229,164 in the second quarter to $167,467 in the third quarter.

It's unclear if this was part of a nationwide trend in July, August and September. There were congressional candidates in Illinois — Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who serves an area north of Champaign, being one of them — who had healthier fundraising numbers in the third quarter than the second.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears on Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at tkacich@news-gazette.com.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on October 20, 2013 at 9:10 am

Why would Davis agree to debates?  It is definitely not to his advantage to do so.  He simply can ignore his rival.  Maybe, a few sound bites to her criticism; but no debates.  Davis will let the television ads do his work in the primary.

antigambler wrote on October 20, 2013 at 7:10 pm

What about the people's side of the story?  Illinois gamblers LOST just fewer than $30 million in September alone and over $205 million in the first year of legal convenience gambling.  $205 million was redirected from other parts of the Illinois economy to taxes, gambling-machine route outfits, and liquor-serving businesses.  Hardly leading to a stronger economy!