Huntley seeks to regulate sweepstakes machines banned by some suburbs
People familiar with the term "sweepstakes" might imagine the plethora of solicitation mailers they receive or the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol knocking on doors carrying a large check to surprise unsuspecting winners.
A lesser known "sweepstakes" approach is gaining traction in towns throughout the suburbs, and officials from local village trustees to the head of the state gambling board are growing concerned about its similarities to regulated gambling.
Electronic sweepstakes machines are quietly popping up in suburban gas stations, coin-operated laundries and convenience stores, with local officials often caught unawares of their existence.
Huntley is one of the most recent towns affected and tonight, village trustees will consider regulating the machines.
Sweepstakes kiosks look similar to video gambling machines, but they are not regulated as gambling devices because they do not dispense cash. Customers can play using cash or for free, but instead of giving cash payouts, the machines dispense coupons that can be redeemed for products, cash or chances to win prizes with the purchase of a product or service.
Nationwide, internet sweepstakes cafes earn an estimated $10 billion yearly, with games closely mimicking the experience of traditional slot and video poker machines. They are designed to avoid state antigambling laws and gambling licensing restrictions, according to the American Gaming Association.
Unlike licensed video gambling, which Illinois legalized in 2012, sweepstakes-machine operators don't have to share revenues collected from the devices with the state or local communities. Their transactions and payouts aren't recorded or publicly reported as are those of video gambling machines.
The Illinois Gaming Board considers them "illegal gambling devices," though state law doesn't specifically prohibit sweepstakes machines.
The gambling board has supported past legislative attempts to declare electronic sweepstakes machines illegal, said Gene O'Shea, Illinois Gaming Board spokesman.
"The IGB believes any unregulated gambling puts the public at risk, undermines public confidence in legitimate gaming and diverts needed revenue away from licensed location as well as the state and local governments," O'Shea said.
Sweepstakes machines have proliferated in Chicago. A few suburban communities have banned them entirely, including Mount Prospect, Mundelein, Niles and Oak Park.
Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz said his village board decided earlier this year to ban the machines due to lack of oversight, after a business in town inquired about them. Violators face between $250 and $750 in fines per machine.
Huntley now has two sweepstakes kiosks at a Mobil gas station off Route 47 near Del Webb's Sun City active adult community, and one other business has inquired about installing them.
The owner of the Mobil gas station declined to be interviewed.
Huntley Assistant Village Manager Lisa Armour said the main concerns are that there is no age limit for machine use and no provision for revenue sharing with the village.
Huntley has 13 establishments operating 61 video gambling terminals that generated $167,073 in revenue for the village during the 2018 calendar year.
The village board will discuss the matter at 7 p.m. tonight in the board room at village hall, 10987 Main St.