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Taking chances

Gamblers last year poured $62.9 million into video gambling machines in Bloomington, winning $47 million back — up from $$60.8 million wagered and $45.8 million won back in 2017, according to data collected by the state gaming board

BLOOMINGTON — Despite fewer video gambling machines and a nearly year-long moratorium on adding any new ones, the city's 2018 share of revenue from the gambling tax went up $44,726 (6 percent) as more money continues to be wagered each year.

Painter wants to continue the moratorium and will ask her fellow aldermen to support placing the matter on the council agenda of an upcoming meeting.

"The gambling takes money out of our economy instead of putting it in," Painter told The Pantagraph on Friday. "There's an awful lot of money that is going into those machines rather than bread and goods for their families."

In 2015, 2016 and 2017 Bloomington was on the Illinois Gaming Board's list of top 10 video gambling cities. The top 10 list for 2018 will not be be available until after the board submits its annual report to the governor's office by March 1.

But monthly reports submitted to the gaming board in 2018 indicate that video gambling's popularity in Bloomington is not waning.

That resulted in $15.9 million in net video terminal income last year, up from about $15 million in 2017. Bloomington's share of video gambling terminal tax revenue last year was $795,122 — up from $750,396 in 2017.

In 2018, there were 57 licensed establishments and 258 video gaming terminals, compared to 59 establishments and 259 machines in 2017 in Bloomington.

Normal's 2018 share of the video gambling terminal tax revenue was $217,367, up $14,659 from the previous year. As of December, the town had 66 terminals in 15 establishments.

"What (the ban) affects is our ability to add new locations that don't already have gaming" said Pete Pontius, director of loss prevention and compliance for B & B Amusement of Illinois.

"There have been several businesses that have come to us in Bloomington, and they're frustrated because they may have gaming at some of their existing locations, but are not able to add any new ones because of the ban," said Pontius. "It makes no sense because their ordinance is already pretty restrictive anyway as far as what can be added."

The state allows placing up to five video gambling terminals per licensed alcohol-serving establishment. Those permitted to have the machines include bars, restaurants, fraternal and veterans organizations and truck stops.

The busiest Twin City gaming site is Chronister Oil Company's Qik-n-EZ at 1607 Morrrissey Drive, Bloomington, where gamblers wagered $5 million and won back $3.7 million, resulting in a net terminal income of $1.3 million in 2018. The business is designated by state gaming officials as a truck stop.

Another truck stop in Bloomington, Pilot Travel Center, 1522 W. Market St., was the second busiest local gaming site, with $4 million put into machines and $2.9 million won back last year.

"Of the money that comes and goes, it is at those truck stops. The money won there goes in their trucks and drives away," said Painter. "It's not coming back into our local economy the way it would at bars or some place like that where people live here and stay here."

Net video gambling terminal income in Illinois is subject to a 30 percent gambling tax.

In Illinois, 5 percent of the net gambling terminal income that is taxed goes to the municipality, 25 percent goes to the state, 34.7 percent goes to both the licensed business and the machine vendor, and less than 1 percent pays for system monitoring.

In Normal, gamblers put $16.4 million put into the machines and won back $12.3 million. Normal's net terminal income totaled $4.3 million, which was divvied up among  machine vendors, licensees, the state and the town last year.

Based on the 258 video gambling machine in place last year, the city would generate a new revenue stream of $129,000 with a $500 annual fee per machine.

At $200 per video gambling machine, which would match Normal's fee, $51,600 would be generated.

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Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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Bloomington Reporter

Bloomington reporter for The Pantagraph.

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