Just as the first establishments to receive video gambling licenses make preparations to fire up their games, the Illinois Gaming Board has issued 70 new licenses.
The second batch includes Richard's Chicken and Ribs in Round Lake Heights, Caliendo's Restaurant and Bar in Winfield and Moretti's Pizza in Lake in the Hills among the 12 suburban sites where licenses were approved.
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Frank's Lounge in North Chicago and Miss Kitty's Saloon and Northside Tap, both in Marengo, also were granted video gambling licenses. Others include establishments in Morton Grove, Justice, Glenwood, Berwyn and Markham.
"I'm looking forward to it," said Tim Lumpkins, co-owner of Richard's Chicken and Ribs. "I think it will help business a lot."
The gaming board has received more than 1,000 applications, though spokesman Gene O'Shea said many have proved to be incomplete, from cities where gambling is outlawed or pranks.
In the next two weeks, O'Shea said, five random sites will be tested to make sure the central communication system connects correctly. The system will allow the gaming board to monitor cash flows and correctly split up profits. He said their goal is to go live by Labor Day.
Rosati's of Lakemoor was one of the first businesses to receive a license. Owner Tony Patti said construction on its game room, which will contain five terminals, wrapped up Friday. State law requires the room will have to be monitored by an employee to ensure underage patrons stay out of the prohibited area.
"You get kind of anxious because it's new territory for most of everyone," Patti said.
Lakemoor Mayor Todd Weihofen said this will be a venture the village and other communities will monitor.
"Obviously this is one of the first places (to receive a license), and everyone is going to be watching to see how it goes," Weihofen said. "Time will tell."
Illinois legalized video gambling in 2009 for bars and restaurants, fraternal organizations, veterans groups and truck stops, but the long regulation process has prevented any machines from operating.
In the past couple months, municipalities have wrestled with whether to keep or strike down long-standing laws against such games. While many have passed ordinances approving the gambling machines, including Prospect Heights, Huntley and Hoffman Estates, others have banned them and some are still on the fence.
In Winfield, where Caliendo's is now a licensed establishment and its plans for video gambling have been upheld by village law, some residents are protesting. About 2,261 residents, unhappy with a board decision to repeal a video gambling ban, signed a petition calling for a November referendum. Unless someone challenges the validity of the signatures, the question will go on the ballot.
A major consideration in the video gambling issue is money -- 5 percent of the machines' net revenues is returned to the municipality. An additional 25 percent goes to the state for capital improvements, and the rest is split between the establishments and game operator.
If all four eligible establishments in Winfield install the maximum of five machines each, the village could collect about $45,000 annually.
Winfield trustee James Hughes said he signed the petition in support of the citizens' voices, but believes the revenue boost would help the village and local businesses.
"Every dollar helps, especially in a time when the economy is struggling, and the same thing (goes) for our businesses," Hughes said. "Anything that helps attract customers to our downtown is a benefit."
But others are concerned about negative side effects, such as the potential onset of gambling addictions and underage gambling. Mayor Irvana Wilks of Mount Prospect, a village that recently banned video gambling, said these negatives outweight even the potential financial benefits.
"In some ways, I kind of think that it's desperation because everyone needs money, and they think this is going to solve their problems, and to me, all it does is create a lot of problems," Wilks said.
A complete list of approved establishments is available at igb.state.il.us/VideoGaming.