Getting in on the game

Getting in on the game

CHAMPAIGN — Video gaming cafes are multiplying in Champaign, Urbana and Savoy with nine already open and at least eight more on the way.

Emma's Eatery has been the most aggressive, nailing down four sites locally. The first, at Savoy Plaza, was approved in November 2013, followed by a site on Glenn Park Drive in west Champaign in June 2014. Emma's newest locations, approved in March of this year, are at 907 W. Marketview Drive in north Champaign and in the Schnucks plaza in downtown Urbana.

Lacey's Place operates two cafes in Champaign, one at 1903 N. Neil St., across from Market Place Shopping Center, and the other at 1724 W. Bradley Ave.

Hot Spot Restaurant also has two locations, one close to Lacey's Place in north Champaign and the other at 1809 S. Philo Road, U.

The newest entrant is Dotty's, which recently opened at 914 W. Town Center Blvd., C, in a strip center just south of the Meijer complex.

Plus, the city of Champaign has five pending liquor license applications for new gaming cafes, said Deputy City Manager Matt Roeschley. They include:

— Another Lacey's Place at 2508 Village Green Place in Champaign's Village at the Crossing.

— Another Emma's Eatery at 105-B N. Mattis Ave., in the Schnucks plaza in west Champaign.

— Another Dotty's at 501 S. Mattis Ave., in the Round Barn commercial area of west Champaign.

— Chelsea's at 2010 W. Springfield Ave., near the intersection with Country Fair Drive.

— Ruby's at 515 W. Town Center Blvd., in the Champaign Station commercial center near Moreland Boulevard.

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said licenses have been approved for two additional gaming cafes, another is pending and "others are interested."

The two new licenses in Urbana are for:

— Ruby's at 510 N. Cunningham Ave., in the Five Points Commercial Center northeast of the Cunningham-University intersection.

— Lacey's Place at 110 E. University Ave., in the new western addition to the Gateway Shoppes plaza.

Prussing said Flamingo Slots has filed an application that's expected to be considered by the city council later this month. That business aims to open a gaming cafe at 1720 S. Philo Road, U, in the strip shopping center that houses Verizon Wireless, Studio Vida and Labor Ready.

Plus, another business is interested in developing a gaming cafe at the northwest corner of Race Street and University Avenue, the mayor said. That business has not yet filed an application for such an establishment, but has approached the city about zoning variances.

"There's a lot of interest in this," Prussing said of the phenomenon.

The state legislator who sponsored the bills allowing such establishments, Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, "was startled by the huge response," Prussing said.

"We were surprised too. It seems it's very fast-growing," she said.

Prussing said the city has had no problems with the cafes, which she said are targeted at women who want a place for video gaming that's not a bar.

"It seems to be a form of entertainment, and there's definitely a market for them," she said.

Video gaming cafes are only one segment of the 53 restaurants, bars and fraternal organizations in Champaign, Urbana and Savoy with video gaming licenses. But gaming cafes tend to attract a lot of players because they're specifically focused on that activity.

Two gaming cafes in Champaign — Emma's Eatery on Glenn Park Drive and Lacey's Place on West Bradley Avenue — each had more than $1 million played on their premises during April. The Emma's Eatery in Savoy was just a little behind, with nearly $925,000 played there that month.

Most places pay out winnings in the neighborhood of 90 percent of the amount played. After winnings were deducted, Lacey's Place on West Bradley Avenue ended up with $85,507 in net terminal income for April, while Emma's Eatery on Glenn Park Drive netted $80,662.

The tax rate on net terminal income is 30 percent, so gaming activity at Lacey's Place on Bradley produced $25,652 in tax revenue in April. The state's share of that was $21,377, while the municipal share was $4,275.

Prussing said the number of video gaming cafes per capita in Urbana and Champaign is low relative to the number in Springfield.

Urbana has one gaming cafe for every 3,750 residents; Champaign, one for every 2,317 residents; and Springfield, one for every 1,054 residents.

"Springfield seems to have hit the limit," she said.

Some enterprises behind the cafes operate statewide, while others concentrate in specific regions of the state. For example:

— Blackhawk Restaurant Group, which operates Emma's Eatery, also has gaming cafes under the names of Betty's Bistro and Penny's Place in other parts of the state.

— SOILL Restaurant Systems, which runs Dotty's downstate, operates primarily in central Illinois with locations including Springfield, Decatur, Lincoln and Taylorville.

— Ruby's, owned by Trident Partners, has focused primarily on the Decatur area.

April's big winners in video gaming

Sites in Champaign/Urbana/Savoy with greatest video game wagering in April

Location Amount played Amount won
1. Emma’s Eatery, 1826 Glenn Park Drive, C. $1,098,527 $1,017,865
2. Lacey’s Place, 1724 W. Bradley Ave., C. $1,007,072 $921,564
3. Emma’s Eatery, 1333 Savoy Plaza Lane, Savoy $924,710 $846,650
4. Lacey’s Place, 1903 N. Neil St., C. $855,889 $793,462


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