Mahomet restaurant owners push for video gambling

MAHOMET — Local restaurant owners are asking village leaders to revise the village's ordinances and consider allowing video gaming.

The Illinois Video Gaming Act allows video gambling terminals to be installed in licensed establishments that serve alcohol, as well as in truck stops and veterans and fraternal halls. But municipalities can opt out of the act, banning gaming within their boundaries.

Mahomet Mayor Patrick Brown said that a previous board voted to opt out in 2009, while changes to the law were still being discussed at the state level. The matter hasn't come before trustees since that time.

Nick Taylor, representing JT Walker's, said allowing video gaming would "add one more piece to the puzzle" in terms of attracting customers. It would also help his and other restaurants offset operating costs, he added.

He likened the ordinance to Mahomet's previous ban on selling alcohol. It was originally a moral issue, he said, but now alcohol sales have helped revitalize the downtown area.

Rich Minick of The Wingery said that business owners would be "mindful of who goes to the machines, or attempts to go to the machines. ... It's not something we take lightly."

Champaign resident Tom Fiedler, owner of Melody Gaming and a former president of the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association, said that the law allows each establishment to have no more than five gaming terminals.

He characterized the machines as entertainment, saying that the $2 maximum bet means it's difficult for patrons to lose large sums of money.

Installing video-gambling machines isn't for everybody, he said, "but for certain people, it does mesh with their businesses."

Under the law, municipalities are entitled to a 5 percent cut of revenues from machines in their boundaries.

Brown directed staff to draft a possible ordinance for allowing video gambling and bring it to a study session next month for discussion.

VIDEO GAMING IN ILLINOIS

193 -- municipalities do not allow it.

868 -- allow it.

372 -- have nothing on the books or haven't addressed the issue.

Source: Tom Fiedler, former president, Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association.

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