'This is video gambling': Arlington Heights set to ban sweepstakes machines

  • This sweepstakes machine was operating at an Arlington Heights business as of May, but the device, and other kiosks around town, now face a ban from the village board.

    This sweepstakes machine was operating at an Arlington Heights business as of May, but the device, and other kiosks around town, now face a ban from the village board. Courtesy of Village of Arlington Heights

 
 
Updated 7/11/2019 6:07 AM

Arlington Heights is set to join Mount Prospect, Mundelein and Huntley in banning electronic sweepstakes machines, which local officials say resemble video gambling.

The machines -- which don't require money initially to play and don't pay out money -- have popped up at three liquor stores, a newsstand and a laundry facility in Arlington Heights.

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After two free credits, the kiosks require money to continue playing. Winners receive coupons to buy products at individual businesses as well as, in some cases, cash.

Arlington Heights, home to Arlington International Racecourse, banned video gambling in town before it went live elsewhere in the state in 2012. This week, village trustees doubled down on that position while not making any distinction between the sweepstakes kiosks and traditional video poker machines.

The village board unanimously agreed to draft an ordinance that would ban the devices.

"I think it's just one big loophole," said Trustee John Scaletta. "I think it's just as close to video gaming as you can get."

Trustee Rich Baldino went a step further.

"I don't think it's a loophole. I think it's gambling," Baldino said. "This is video gambling."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Illinois Gaming Board considers the sweepstakes machines "illegal gambling devices," though state law doesn't specifically prohibit them.

Cory Aronovitz, an attorney who represents sweepstakes machine operators, attended the board's committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday to lobby trustees to permit the machines while setting up a process to license and tax them.

One machine could generate $10,000 per year in tax revenue for the municipality, Aronovitz said.

Two representatives of a software developer for the sweepstakes machines also argued they help generate income for small businesses and compared the kiosks to the Monopoly sweepstakes game at McDonald's, in which patrons receive coupons after making a food purchase.

After a police department investigation that started in May, the Arlington Heights businesses where the machines were discovered agreed to unplug them while village officials looked into the issue further.

• Daily Herald staff writer Madhu Krishnamurthy contributed to this report.

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