SPRINGFIELD — State and local revenue from video gambling more than doubled last year as the industry continued its lightning fast expansion.
According to the Illinois Gaming Board, state revenue from the machines topped $164.8 million in 2014, up from $75.1 million in 2013. Municipalities received $32.9 million, compared to $15 million the year before.
The money flowed in as gamblers poured more than $2.4 billion into the machines over the 12-month period, winning $1.7 billion of that back. Five percent of the revenue goes to cities, towns and counties, while 25 percent goes to the state.
Since the first 61 machines went online in September 2012 at a handful of bars and restaurants, the number of machines and locations has mushroomed to 19,182 machines in 4,675 locations.
While the revenue is helping pay for state construction projects, the spread of the machines is being blamed for a corresponding decrease in revenue for the state's 10 casinos.
"I constantly hear from people who say they can just go down to the corner bar and play the slots, rather than driving to a casino," said Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association.
The gaming board reports that Illinois casinos generated $86.7 million less in 2014 compared to 2013, with casino admissions down 1.4 million during the same time period.
"I think it just shows that we're saturated," Swoik said.
While state lawmakers have been pushing for an expansion of gambling that would include new casinos in Chicago, Rockford, Lake County, Danville and Chicago's south suburbs, the video gaming industry is growing on a more viral level.
While legislatively limited to taverns, truck stops and fraternal organizations, business owners have gotten creative in finding loopholes to bring the machines into their establishments. At least one flower shop offers video poker. And, a former television repair business in Springfield has its own gambling parlor.
The gaming board reports that 175 municipalities continue to ban video gambling, down from over 200 last year. Among them are Forsyth and Secor.
In some communities, business owners are trying to overturn the gambling bans.
At The Wingery in Mahomet, owner Rich Minick met last week with the mayor hoping to convince town officials to lift the community's ban on video gambling.
"We are just trying to get the ball rolling," Minick said. "It would be another source of revenue for us. It would offset when my food prices go up."
He said as many as 10 customers a week ask if he has video gambling and fears he is losing business to establishments that have the machines.