DANVILLE — The owners of the I & I Steakhouse east of Danville are in the middle of renovating the interior of their business in hopes that they will soon have video-gaming terminals, but currently, Vermilion County ordinances don't allow gambling.
Earlier this summer, David and Teresa Wright applied to the state to get the gaming machines at the I & I, and in preparation, began planning some changes to their business at 4015 E. Main St., which is within a mile of the Indiana border. But they soon learned that the county ordinances prohibit the video machines.
Since then, the Wrights and the owners of the Little Nugget, 6 S. Henning Road, west of Danville, have asked county officials to consider changing the ordinances.
The board will decide at a special meeting Tuesday night whether to allow video gambling machines. The county board meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Vermilion County Courthouse Annex, 6 N. Vermilion St., Danville.
The county's ordinances govern unincorporated areas of the county but not municipalities. More than a month ago, Westville Village Board members unanimously voted to allow video-gaming machines after tavern owners there asked village officials to change the ordinance that prohibited the machines.
Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon said the proposal the county board will consider would create a new category, a K license, that would allow an establishment to sell alcohol and food and have a dance floor in addition to video-gambling machines. And it would include a $2,500 annual licensing fee.
McMahon said the new category is a "super" license that gives businesses a lot of options to increase the entertainment value of their establishments rather than creating a bunch of taverns with gaming machines.
Currently, businesses in unincorporated areas must pay $1,500 annually for a license to sell alcohol and food or $1,000 a year for a liquor license to sell alcohol.
According to McMahon, there are 13 businesses, including the I & I and the Little Nugget, with county liquor licenses that would be eligible for the video-gaming machines.
McMahon said if the proposal is approved, businesses would surrender their current liquor license and get the new K license, but this year, they would pay only the difference in fees between their current license and the new license. And, he said, the county would only require half of the difference, because half the year has already passed. So, a business with a $1,500 food and liquor license would have to pay $500 for a new K license and $2,500 annually thereafter
The state Legislature approved video gambling three years ago for truck stops, veteran organizations, fraternal organizations and other establishments, like taverns and bars, that have liquor licenses, but local governments can prohibit the video gaming if they choose. Each establishment can have up to five machines, and the state will get about 25 percent of the revenue from the machines, and local governments, including the county, will get about 5 percent with the rest split between machine operators and the businesses.
McMahon said local governments can also charge businesses an annual fee per machine, but the county is not proposing to do that.
Teresa Wright said allowing the machines would be great for the financially hard-hit bar and restaurants in the county. She said the revenue generated by this legalized gaming will benefit the state, local businesses and local government.
"If you look at other states that have been doing this for years, it's very clear to see what a good thing this is for everybody involved. This revenue is going to create new jobs statewide in many different areas," said Wright, who added that the I & I already has gambling at its facility, the Illinois State Lottery. "This legalized video gaming is just another form of entertainment."