Illinois truck stop owners ready for gambling

2010-06-17T17:08:00Z 2010-06-19T16:16:31Z Illinois truck stop owners ready for gamblingBy Kurt Erickson | kurt.erickson@lee.net pantagraph.com

SPRINGFIELD -- It could be at least another six months before the payouts start coming, but truck stops along Illinois' interstates are readying for video gambling.

State lawmakers last month sent Gov. Pat Quinn a revamped proposal spelling out in more detail how truck stops and veterans' halls could qualify to offer legal payouts on video gaming machines.

It's all part of the statewide legalization of video gambling in bars and restaurants designed to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to finance statewide road, bridge and school construction projects.

Tom Gray, owner of the Little Nashville truck stop and restaurant in Nashville, says he's waiting to hear more details about the proposal, but expects to add the machines when they become available.

"I think it will be good for the small businessman," said Gray, whose truck stop caters to travelers along Interstate 64 in between St. Louis and Mount Vernon.

At the Dixie Trucker's Plaza in McLean, an estimated 6,000 trucks rumble past on Interstate 55 every day.

Owner Ben Gulley said he's very interested in getting the machines, but hasn't heard many details about the state's foray into the video gambling business.

He says adding the machines would mostly be for the benefit of truckers, who are mandated by federal rules to stop their big rigs after so many hours behind the wheel.

"This could be something for them to do in their down time," Gulley said.

In the House and Senate, there were concerns expressed about allowing gambling to go on 24 hours per day, since most truck stops are open around the clock.

In Effingham, for example, an estimated 14,000 trucks converge at the intersection of Interstates 57 and 70 and make stops at a handful of truck plazas nestled along the exit and entrance ramps.

Last year, the Effingham County Board discussed a possible ban of the machines, but has not made a move to join with dozens of other local governments that have said they don't want gambling in their communities, Board Chairwoman Carolyn Willenburg said Thursday.

Gulley said the expansion will be beneficial for the state.

"I think the state of Illinois needs the money," he said.

The measure is expected to be signed by Quinn, who supported an earlier version of the measure. After that, the Illinois Gaming Board must draft rules and regulations for the operation of the machines.

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