Video gambling pitch heard by Vernon Hills trustees

  • Representatives from McCarthy's Restaurant and Irish Pub in Vernon Hills are ready to install video gaming terminals they say would improve business and create revenue for the village.

      Representatives from McCarthy's Restaurant and Irish Pub in Vernon Hills are ready to install video gaming terminals they say would improve business and create revenue for the village. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

Updated 5/17/2012 10:20 AM

The working name is Pot of Gold, but there is a ways to go before anyone will declare winnings from video gambling in Vernon Hills.

Village officials aren't tipping their hand but are interested enough in the possibilities of video gambling to want more detail and clarification of an activity currently not allowed under local ordinances.


The impetus is a standing request from McCarthy's Restaurant and Irish Pub at Westfield Hawthorn mall to install the permitted maximum of five gaming devices when state licenses become available.

"We've been pursuing this ever since they passed the law in 2009," co-owners Steve Crane told the village board Tuesday during an informal discussion.

The Pot of Gold gaming area, to be created per state regulations as a separate entity within the restaurant, would raise food and beverage sales in what has been a tough few years, he said.

"We are really looking forward to this boost to help our business in the future," Crane said.

The games would include video poker and other "line" games such as blackjack with a maximum payout of $500 per hand. The cost to play would be for pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters, with a maximum wager not to exceed $2.

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Crane and co-owner Andy Bobowski have teamed with Morris Gaming Inc., of Skokie, one of 60 state-licensed terminal operators, in hopes of launching an activity they say also would benefit the village with more sales tax revenue and a cut from the machines.

Estimates provided to board members showed the village could earn nearly $330,000 a year, assuming 29 venues with five terminals each were licensed for video gaming.

Under state law, video gambling would be allowed at licensed businesses where liquor is served on premises; at truck stops of at least three acres; and, at fraternal or veterans establishments. The Video Gaming Act is intended to supply about a third of the state's $31 billion capital plan.

In Vernon Hills, which has a dense commercial base, restaurants are the predominant potential locations. The village is among many communities that recently have considered video gambling in advance of a possible launch date Aug. 1. Schaumburg officials recently banned such gambling, for example, while the Winfield village board voted to lift its ban.


What's driving interest is that state guidelines for operating video gambling systems are now in place. Three years ago, the Illinois Gaming Board delayed issuing licenses until it devised those guidelines.

The terminals must be in a separate area and be restricted to people 21 and older. Winnings would be in paper vouchers, like an ATM receipt, that could be cashed on premises from funds kept in a separate vault.

"These appear to be extremely tight," Trustee Thom Koch said of regulations outlined for the board. "It seems like everything is covered by these rules. That's what was missing in the earlier discussion."

Vernon Hills would get 5 percent of the net income from each terminal; the state 25 percent; and the location and game operator each getting 35 percent. The village also can charge an annual fee for each terminal.

Vernon Hills would have to change the municipal code to provide for video gaming.

Several aspects of the matter will be researched before the board revisits the subject.

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