Illinois prepares for video gambling launch

Jul 30, 2012

Video gambling in Illinois is scheduled to roll out in bars and restaurants in the coming weeks. But for many businesses, it's still unclear whether they'll get permission to install the machines.

So far, 90 establishments across the state are licensed to host video gambling.But another 13-hundred are waiting. Their applications are still pending before the state gaming board, which could decide on some of the requests at its next meeting.

The American Legion post in Springfield is awaiting approval. Its fiscal officer Mike Walton says the Legion plans to use the machines to raise money for its charity programs. He admits all members weren't on board:

"We had some that, that weren't quite as wild about it.  But they understood that if we want to continue doing the things that we're doing for the community, that we had to have funding come from somewhere and this is going to be an excellent source for that" Walton said.

The state, and local governments, also get a cut of the profits. Lawmakers authorized video gambling back in 2009 to help fund capital construction projects.

Even when it's ready, video gambling won't be everywhere. It's up to local governments if they want to allow it.

The city of DeKalb will soon decide whether it wants to allow the machines. Mayor Kris Povlsen says many factors are being considered ahead of the city council’s vote, including whether video gambling would create more social problems for the city. But Povlsen says he’s leaning toward supporting the idea.

“I do see it as an opportunity for some of our local businesses, our restaurant and bar businesses that are struggling, to keep the patrons here in the community who choose to gamble as a form of recreation as opposed to going into another community or a riverboat” Povlsen said.

A spokesman for the Illinois gaming board says the machines will be monitored by a wireless central communications system.  He says they hope to launch the program sometime around Labor Day.  Five locations will be selected as test sites.