In recent years, a weak economy has dealt a pretty lousy hand to businesses owners across the country, who often struggle to attract customers amid fierce competition.
But local businessman Robert Taft is hoping the Darien City Council will improve his chances by reversing its 2009 decision to ban video gaming in the city.
Taft, the owner of Q Bar and Grill at 8109 S. Cass Ave. in Darien, came before the city council Feb. 4 to ask aldermen to review Darien’s ordinance prohibiting video gaming. He thinks the addition of video poker machines to his bar and grill -- which currently features pool and Foosball tables, dartboards, bean bags and video arcade games -- will help him to better compete with area establishments in municipalities where video gaming is allowed.
Nearby towns such as Oakbrook Terrace and most recently, Westmont, have already given a green light to video gaming. And in Lemont, which approved the machines in July, establishments that feature video poker machines have seen quite a return on their gamble.
Reports from the Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) indicate that in December 2013, of the four Lemont establishments housing video gaming machines, two bars -- Bottles and Stonehouse Pub -- raked in the most, with net terminal incomes of $348,509 and $287,429, respectively.
After game winners, the establishments, gaming companies and the State of Illinois each collected their shares of the proceeds, poker machines from the two bars brought in $1,002 and $845, respectively, for the municipality in December. Lemont’s share from all video poker machines within the village limits in December was $2,542.
The State of Illinois receives 30 percent of the net income from each terminal – from which the municipality where the terminals are operated receives 5 percent (or 1.5 percent of the net terminal income). The remainder is divided between the terminal operator and business location, with 0.7275 percent paid to the company that maintains the communication system allowing the IBG to monitor the video games.
A brief history of video gaming in Illinois
The State of Illinois passed the Video Gaming Act (230 ILCS 40) in 2009, allowing licensees (including establishments where liquor is served, as well as fraternal and veterans organizations and truck stops) to house up to five video gaming terminals each. At that time, local governments could prohibit video gaming within their boundaries - and the Darien City Council approved an ordinance banning video gaming Dec. 21, 2009.
On Oct. 9, 2012, when video gaming “went live,” video gaming terminals became operational in 278 establishments across Illinois. The IGB currently lists more than 1,100 video gaming licensees - and as of Feb. 11, 2013, the state board was processing video gaming license applications from more than 2,500 entities.
Darien City Council to review video gaming ordinance Tuesday
Assistant City Administrator Scott Coren said at the direction of the city council, members of Darien’s Administrative/Finance Committee on Feb. 11 discussed the city’s policy regarding video gaming with the owner of Q Bar and Grill, as well as with a local resident who works for a gaming company.
“We looked at which of our neighbors have approved [video gaming],” Coren said. “We are very pro-business; the city council will look at the ordinance at its next meeting Tuesday night.”
Coren said establishments who want video gaming machines first need to obtain a license from the IGB, which requires an extensive application process that could take up to a year.
The Darien City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19, at City Hall, 1702 Plainfield Road. To view the meeting agenda, click here.
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