DANVILLE — The Vermilion County Board voted Tuesday night to allow video-gambling machines in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The owners of two businesses, the I & I Steakhouse, 4015 E. Main St., east of Danville, and the Little Nugget, 6 S. Henning Road, west of Danville, both requested that the county consider changing its ordinance prohibiting gambling.
With three county board members absent, the county board voted 17-6 to change its ordinance and allow the machines, which will generate revenue for the county as well as the state.
Those voting "no" were Steve Fourez, Rick Knight, Chris Leigh, Terry Stal, John Alexander and Bob Fox. Ivadale Foster voted "present," and those voting "yes" were Todd Johnson, Chip Mattis, Kevin Green, Corky Nightlinger, Terry Wilkus, Craig Chambers, Mike Marron, Mike Dodge, Scott Kair, John Dreher, Robert Boyd, John Criswell, David Stone, Daniel Walls Sr., Larry Davis, Jim McMahon and Bruce Stark. Joe Tamalunis, Gary Weinard and Ed Barney were absent.
The state Legislature approved video gambling three years ago for truck stops, veterans groups, fraternal organizations and other establishments, like taverns and bars, that have liquor licenses, but local governments can prohibit it if they choose.
The county's new ordinance will govern only establishments that are in unincorporated areas of the county, as municipalities control the issue within their borders.
The county's new ordinance creates a special liquor license category, a K license, that will require a $2,500 annual fee for establishments that want to have the machines. In addition, the county will receive 5 percent of the revenue generated by the machines. Each establishment that's licensed is allowed up to five machines. The state will get about 25 percent of the revenue, local governments will get 5 percent, and the rest will be split between machine operators and the businesses.
Board Chairman McMahon said he did not know how much revenue this might generate for the county, because it's uncertain how many businesses besides the I&I and Little Nugget will seek a license. He said there are currently 13 establishments in unincorporated areas of the county that have liquor licenses.
Some board members spoke out against allowing the machines, including Knight, who said that a lot of people can't afford to gamble and a lot of their money will go out of the county. Chambers said he doesn't believe you can legislate morality. And Stone said he had done a lot of research into the issue and learned that many businesses have already had the gambling machines for a long time and were paying winnings although it wasn't legal, and this is now a way to monitor that activity legally.
"If (the county) can profit from something that's been going on for a long time, then I'm all for it," he said.
In Danville, Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said the city's ordinances do not prohibit the machines, so businesses are already free to apply to the state to get the machines. He said the city will receive 5 percent of the revenue on those machines when they become active later this year. He said the city has required businesses to buy stickers for a small fee for the machines and may consider requiring that for these new, state-licensed machines.