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Illinois Bars Already Profiting From Video Gambling

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KEYESPORT, Ill. (AP) - Some Illinois bar owners say they’re already making big profits from video gambling machines that became legal late last year, and pending applications are expected to put even more money in their pockets.

Bob Waddell owns a bar outside Keyesport in Clinton County in southwestern Illinois. He made $9,778 in video gambling in December, according to a report in the Belleville News-Democrat.

“I have not been disappointed with the results,” he told the newspaper.

Players fed more than $1 million into machines operating in 35 establishments located east of St. Louis in December. These players lost $350,000 that month. Statewide, players lost nearly $7 million in December, while establishments kept $2.45 million, the state earned $1.75 million and cities and counties combined made about $350,000.

Video gambling became legal in bars, clubs and truck stops in October. While it’s early to tell how the profits will help the state’s dire financial problems, early numbers have shown it’s been a popular idea. Many applications are pending, including 251 in southwestern Illinois.

Lawmakers have talked of reviving a gambling expansion, including a casino in Chicago. Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed expansion legislation last summer citing ethical and oversight safeguards, but has since said he’s open to compromising.

State law provides how video gambling profits must be divided. The establishments get 35 percent, the vendors supplying the machines get 35 percent, the state gets 25 percent, and the 5 percent left goes to the municipality or county that authorized the liquor license to the bar.

All stakeholders may see their revenue increase soon after the Illinois Gaming Board licensed dozens more bars two weeks ago. Each establishment can have up to five machines.

But the staggering profits aren’t making everyone happy. Anita Bedell, the director of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, said the communities will gain “very little” out of people’s loses.

“We’ve got a truck stop outside Springfield where last month people lost over $82,000,” Bedell said. “It’s a big windfall for some of these bars.”

The state’s annual revenue from video gambling has been broadly estimated. It ranges from $106 million to about $534 million. The low estimates are based on Cook County’s ban on the machines.

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