An Illinois Senate committee recently approved by a 9-2 vote a measure to allow truck stops to have 10 video gaming machines—twice as many as allowed in bars, restaurants or veterans or fraternal organizations. Currently licensed establishments can operate a maximum of five machines; part of the profits go toward state road, bridge and school construction projects.
The bill’s sponsor, state Senator Dave Syverson, said his proposal would raise more revenue from truckers who frequently come from other states. “What happens is the truckers come and park at the stops for long periods of times, but the stops are only allowed five machines. So you have 50, 60 truckers there and only five machines to use. So, truckers get frustrated, and some will go to other states where there’s a lot more games and instead of staying in Illinois, they’ll just go to Iowa, fill up, and then drive right through the state.”
Syverson added, “Some of the truck stops I’ve talked to have said they get a lot of complaints from truckers that say, ‘Hey, that guy’s been on the machine for an hour, and I want a chance to play before I get on the road,'” Syverson said.
At the end of January, according to Illinois Gaming Board figures, more than 14,423 terminals could be found in establishments statewide. Players have invested nearly $500 million in the games, generating $9.6 million for the state and $1.9 million in revenue for local municipalities since video games were approved by the Illinois legislature in September 2012. About 740 more companies have applied to put their video games into establishments. Chicago opted out of the program and does not allow video gaming within its borders.
Opponents have said expanding the number of machines in truck stops could result in other businesses adding more machines, leading to “mini casinos” across the state.
Meanwhile in Danville, local politicians are promoting their area to host a casino in case legislators allow gaming licenses in Chicago and four counties, including Vermilion. State Rep. Chad Hays said, “I think Danville very much remains in the discussion. And it’s the same as it’s been since I’ve been here: It’s less about gaming than economic development.”
Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said he’d use casino revenue for one-time expenses, like capital purchases, infrastructure development and quality of life improvements. He noted he would not use casino revenue for day-to-day operational expenses, like other cities that were impacted when revenues declined. Eisenhauer added a casino would generate temporary construction jobs and several hundred full-time positions.
The mayor also pointed out a casino in Danville would have no nearby competition—making Alton, across the state line from St. Louis casinos—less attractive. Currently the closes casino is in Indianapolis. “I think when you talk to anybody, the Danville facility makes a lot of sense in that it’s right on the Indiana state line, and if you look at Danville in comparison to other gaming facilities in Illinois and Indiana, you recognize we are in an area void of gaming facilities,” he said.
Ideally, Eisenhauer said, the legislature would pass an expanded gambling measure this spring, the governor would sign it into law this summer and the city would finalize discussions with a developer and apply for a gaming license this fall or winter.