Regulations Expand Illinois Video Gambling, Protect Casino

The Aurora, Illinois city council has passed new regulations that would allow more video gambling terminals and also protect the Hollywood Casino downtown. The city recently completed a six-month moratorium to study the impact of video gambling on riverboat casinos. The new regulations would set a total limit of 200 terminals in the city.

The city council in Aurora, Illinois recently passed new regulations that would allow video gambling to expand and also protect the Hollywood Casino downtown. Alderman Michael Saville said, “I think we all agree the casino has been a boon to the community in terms of revenues, which has helped with many capital projects. I think we have to be protective of our casino.” Aurora City Clerk Wendy McCambridge noted of every $100 spent on video gambling, the city gets 52 cents. Out of every $100 spent at the casino, the city gets $6. “We need to continue to protect these revenues,” she said. Aurora has 147 video gambling terminals in 34 establishments.

The new regulations would set a total limit of 200 terminals in the city; an establishment would not be allowed to have more than five terminals. Also, the new rules would not permit video gambling terminals within one-half mile of a location that already has video gambling, although an establishment could apply for a special use variance. Only one video gambling operation would be allowed per shopping plaza.

Under the new regulations, only restaurants—operations whose food sales are at least 51 percent of the revenue of their business—could offer the video gambling terminals. Additionally, establishments that currently have video gambling terminals would be grandfathered in, until the business is sold or closed.

License fees will increase from $100 to $300 a year, and terminal distributor’s fees will increase from $1,000 to 1,200 a year per terminal.

Last September, the council enacted a six-month moratorium to study the impact of video gambling on riverboat casinos. In 2006, the city received $15 million in casino revenue; in 2017 revenue fell to $7 million. Video gambling generated $339,056. Statewide, 2017 was the first year video gambling brought in more revenue than casino gambling. An Illinois Casino Gaming Association survey indicated from 2013, the first full year of video gambling, to 2014, casino admissions declined by1.4 million.

In St. Charles, the city council recently voted 7-3 to continue to allow video gambling at licensed establishments. The machines became legal in September 2016, nearly a year after the city council narrowly approved lifting its video gambling ban.

Police Chief James Keegan said no violations or crimes related to video gambling were reported during the program’s 18-month trial period. He said 13 establishments operate 55 machines in the city, and a few license applications are pending.

Mayor Ray Rogina said the city council can reconsider its video gambling regulations or ban video gambling if problems arise at any point. But Alderman Rita Payleitner said, “Once this door is opened, it’s really difficult to close. What’s your line in the sand?” Payleitner and Alderman Maureen Lewis voted against continuing to allow video gambling. They said they’d prefer extending the sunset clause for another two years. And Alderman Ron Silkaitis also voted “no” without comment, though he previously stated he believes the machines don’t fit with the city’s image.

As of last month, video gambling has generated $2.57 million in net taxable income for the city’s licensed establishments, according to the Illinois Gaming Board. Taxed at 30 percent, those profits brought the state $642,526 and $128,505 for the city.