The Illinois Gaming Board has approved video gambling licenses for several suburban locations, including in Hoffman Estates, Port Barrington and Lakemoor.
After years of wrangling over the issue and a long regulation process, the batch of 18 licenses approved this week is the first from the Gaming Board for such establishments, setting up a path for video gambling to be in the suburbs soon.
Sites approved include The Assembly American Bar and Cafe in Hoffman Estates, Hermann's Rest A While in Port Barrington and Rosati's of Lakemoor. The Hub Lounge and McGarry's Bowl in Harvard, Izzy's in Joliet and The Heights Bar in Harwood Heights also gained approval for video gambling.
Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe said Friday that those who now have licenses just have to get machines set up and software OK'd before patrons can start playing video poker and other games.
"As far as we're concerned, we're almost ready to go," Jaffe said.
The mayor of Lakemoor says video gambling isn't allowed in his town, even though the state granted a license to Rosati's of Lakemoor, 28948 W. Route 120.
Mayor Todd Weihofen said the village board soon will discuss whether to change the ordinance.
"Right now, it wouldn't be allowed," he said. "Rosati's absolutely was trying to be pre-emptive."
Rosati's is preparing a gaming room and hopes to have five games installed and ready for play on Aug. 1, according to Lynne Morris, CEO of Morris Gaming Inc., of Skokie. Morris could become the licensed terminal operator for about 100 venues in Lake and Cook counties.
Tony Patti, owner of Rosati's of Lakemoor, said in a statement he has been planning for over a year.
"Our patrons are thrilled," he said.
The Gaming Board's 18 license approvals statewide are out of about 1,000 applications, Jaffe said. More approvals could be coming soon, but Jaffe said about half of the 1,000 applications were incomplete and couldn't be approved as-is. Some were not approved because they came from towns were video gambling has already been outlawed, Jaffe said.
Local officials throughout the suburbs in recent weeks have been weighing whether their towns should have the gambling machines. They have a chance to opt out of gambling. But 5 percent of the net revenues go to local coffers, a potentially attractive benefit in tough economic times.
Vernon Hills, for example, could earn nearly $330,000 a year, assuming 29 venues with five terminals each were licensed. The village board has been considering whether to change local ordinances to allow video gambling but has not made a decision.
Another 25 percent of the revenue goes to the state where it will pay for roads, bridges and schools that are already being built. The establishment and game operator evenly split the remaining 70 percent of revenues.
State lawmakers approved video gambling in 2009 as a means to help pay for its biggest construction program ever. But delays at the Illinois Gaming Board have kept the machines out of bars so far.