Casino Group Believes Video Gaming Hurting Revenue

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

PINCKNEYVILLE -- Video gaming machines are showing up in local businesses across southern Illinois. However, one state group is now fighting for fewer licenses.

The Illinois Casino Gaming Association is crying foul over video gaming. They believe the state is being too broad and allowing machines in places that weren't intended to be approved.
 
The state association feels the law was designed to put gaming machines in a few places, like bars, restaurants, and truck stops. They can be found in any place that has a liquor license, including a flower shop or pool supply store. That's money casinos are losing.
 
When TJ's Liquor was looking for new ways to reach customers, they decided to tap into video gaming.
 
"We needed something little that was gonna generate us more revenue, that wouldn't cost us a lot to invest in," said Manager Lori Evers-Miller.
 
The Pinckneyvllle shop waited about a year to hear back from the state . They also got the go ahead to serve alcohol at the in-store bar. Four months ago, they were finally able to welcome the first gamblers.
 
"So it's really not only just the machines, but also as part of the business," said Evers-Miller. "It's expanded us. We've had to hire a couple new people."
 
Evers-Miller believes it's a small change and some extra revenue that could benefit a lot of groups.
 
"I think this is a good way for the state, and the city, and for just personal businesses to get a little bit," said Evers-Miller. 
 
The money spilling over to places, like TJ's, is a big concern to the Illinois Casino Gaming Association.
 
"What's happening is we're not creating anymore gamblers, so its cannibalizing the patrons of the casinos," said Illinois Gaming Association Executive Director Tom Swoik. 
 
Swoik says the cash flow going to traditional casinos took a major dive in 2007 and began to level out in 2012. Video gaming then came onto the scene.
 
"The video gaming terminals, there's almost 18,000 of them out there now, which is equivalent to another 13-14 casinos," said Swoik. 
 
Casino income was down 7 percent in 2013 and continues to drop. 
 
The state association feels it's unfair. Machines are now popping up in a wide variety of businesses.
 
"They're doing things, like flower shops are having a wine tasting on a Friday," said Swoik. "They give them a liquor license, so they can have video gaming there all during the week."
 
Swoik says casinos also have to keep problem gamblers on the self-exclusion list out of casinos or pay a big fine. They're restricted again on the people who can receive one of their flyers in the mail. Those two regulations don't apply video gaming sites.
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