Originally Posted Online: Oct. 09, 2012, 9:55 pm
Last Updated: Oct. 09, 2012, 10:18 pm

Silvis bar among first in Illinois to get video gambling

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The Associated Press

Photo: Todd Welvaert
Paul Garcia, Silvis, plays one of the video poker machines at Avenue Tap in Silvis on Tuesday. The bar was one of 65 establishments to go live with video poker Tuesday, more than three years after state lawmakers approved it as a way to help raise billions to help fix schools and roads.

A Silvis bar is among the first in Illinois to offer video gambling under a state law approved three years ago.

Video gambling went live in 65 bars and restaurants statewide Tuesday. The first video gambling terminal locally arrived at Avenue Tap in Silvis on Tuesday and already was in use that night, according to staff at the bar.

The other two video gambling licenses already approved by the state in Rock Island County are for City Limits Saloon and Grill, Rock Island, and Jesse's Saloon in Silvis.

Jesse's expects to have its video gambling available Friday, while staff at City Limits expects to get terminals Thursday but are unsure when they'll be up and running. A number of other area bars have applied for video gambling licenses and are waiting for the green light from the state.

The Illinois Gaming Board has licensed 341 businesses and fraternal and veteran organizations — though not all have their terminals installed yet — and is processing more than 2,200 other applications, gambling officials said.

Lawmakers approved video gambling in 2009 to help fund a $31 billion construction program to fix schools, roads, bridges and other projects. At that time, it was estimated video gambling would raise about $375 million a year for the state.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Pat Quinn did not immediately respond to a request for updated projections Tuesday.

Patrons at The Assembly American Bar & Cafe in Hoffman Estates have been able to play on its five machines for two weeks because the eatery was a test site, owner Gary Taylor said.

The machines have been popular, he said, but he doubted they will bring in as much revenue as terminal operators and the state have projected. The state will get 25 percent and local municipalities 5 percent of net income after winnings are paid. The other 70 percent is split by the business owners and the companies that operate the machines.

The 65 locations announced Tuesday have a total of 278 video gambling terminals. Gambling officials have estimated that up to 75,000 machines could be installed statewide within a year.

Gambling officials said 633 cities and counties have enacted ordinances to allow video gambling, and several had to reverse bans on video gambling to take advantage of the potential new revenue. Hundreds of communities still prohibit the practice. Opposition largely has come from church groups that question how much revenue the machines will bring and worry about the social cost.

Dispatch/Argus staff contributed to this story.