SPRINGFIELD -- Gamblers have pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into video gaming machines in the devices' first month of formal operation at suburban bars.
A monthly report from the Illinois Gaming Board shows, for the first time, how much gamblers are spending on the new machines and how much tax money that delivers to the towns that host them.
In Hoffman Estates, for example, five machines at The Assembly American Bar and Cafe drew $258,053 in bets in October, according to the report. From $17,668 in gamblers' losses, the state gets $4,417 and the village gets $883. The machines' owner and location owner get most of the rest.
In Round Lake Heights, two machines lured about $28,000 in bets. In Port Barrington, 10 machines at two locations saw about $266,000 in bets.
Statewide in October, 714 machines generated $17.9 million in bets and gamblers lost $1.4 million. Of that, the state got $347,000 in taxes.
The numbers are likely to grow as more machines begin operation and as more people learn about them. About 250 more machines are already operating since October. State regulators have approved 600 locations, of which only 235 are functioning now, said Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O'Shea.
Many suburbs have taken votes this year on whether to allow or deny the machines, with many towns that previously banned them now allowing them. Many of the Illinois locations are downstate.
But the possibility of relative widespread availability of gambling in bars worries anti-gambling advocates. They argue the new revenues local officials get are offset because people aren't spending their money elsewhere in town.
"They're local residents that are losing," said Anita Bedell, director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems.
Video gambling gives Illinois wagerers another option as lawmakers this month could once again consider putting new casinos in Lake County and Chicago and allowing for up to 1,200 slot machines at Arlington Park.