Can you win money at a video gambling machine?
Sure, but the machine is calibrated in such a way that, over the long run, the machine, the bar and the machine's owner are likely to be the winners.
If a machine hasn't had a payout for a while, is it "due" for one?
No. The machines use computerized random number generators, which make the odds of getting certain cards or slot symbols the same for each play. Think of it like flipping a coin. If you flip a coin 99 times and it turns up "heads" each time, there's still a 50-50 chance that it will turn up "heads" again on the 100th flip.
If a computer randomly picks the cards or slot symbols, how does the machine have the edge?
In the case of slot-type games, each number chosen by the computer corresponds to a certain symbol or blank space on each reel. The higher-value symbols typically appear only a few times on each reel, while lower-value symbols appear more often.
In the case of card-type games, the important factor is the payout table, which can vary. With every play, there's the same likelihood of a player getting a certain hand, such as a full house. But depending on how the machine is calibrated, a full house could result in a payout of nine credits, or maybe eight credits. The difference is important.
What type of businesses can have video gambling machines?
They're allowed at bars, restaurants, fraternal organizations and veterans organizations that hold liquor-pouring licenses, as well as certain truck stops. The truck stops must have at least a three-acre facility and sell at least 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel per month.
Can establishments be denied licenses?
Yes, the Illinois Gaming Board can deny a license for various reasons, such as an owner having a felony conviction, a gambling-related criminal conviction, or not paying taxes.
How many machines can they have?
Each establishment can have up to five machines.
Are they banned anywhere?
Municipalities and counties can choose not to allow video gambling. In the metro-east, the machines are banned in Brooklyn, Cahokia, Edwardsville, Swansea, O'Fallon, East St. Louis, Maryville, East Carondelet, Greenville, Lebanon, New Baden, Glen Carbon, Valmeyer and Hecker.
Also, machines are not allowed within 1,000 feet of a horse-racing track or a casino's home dock, or within 100 feet of a school or church. A bill pending in the legislature would lift the restriction involving churches and schools in cases where a church or school opens after an establishment had already received its liquor license.
What about Belleville and Collinsville?
Belleville and Collinsville had referendums in November. Belleville voters approved video gambling.
In Collinsville, voters rejected a nonbinding referendum that would have banned video gambling. It takes a while for the state to review establishments' applications for video gambling licenses. For December, there were no Belleville or Collinsville establishments that had active licenses and revenue to report.
Are there still "gray" machines out there, which provide payouts on machines that are supposed to be for "amusement only?"
If there are, the number has been reduced significantly. For one thing, it's now a felony to have such machines. A felony conviction would make an owner ineligible for a license. An owner who thinks he might someday want to have legal machines would be wise to get rid of any illegal machines.
Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O'Shea said: "We think it's probably been cut down quite a bit, because the people that are doing the legal machines, if they see the gray machines, they call our hotline and let us know where they are. That's cutting into their income."
What's the cost for an establishment to have a video gambling license?
The state charges a $100 annual fee. Cities and counties also can impose a fee. The state also imposes fees on the manufacturers and suppliers of the machines. The annual fee for a manufacturer is $10,000.
Is there a limit to how many places will have video gambling?
Sort of. Video gambling licenses are issued only to large truck stops and to establishments that have a liquor-pouring license. So the maximum possible number of video-gambling establishments is limited by the number of businesses and organizations that fit those criteria.
What's the maximum bet and maximum payout?
The maximum bet is $2 per hand. The maximum payout per hand is $500.
Is there an age limit to play?
Players must be at least 21. Establishments are required to monitor the playing area to prevent youths from playing. Establishments where people younger than 21 are allowed to enter must seclude the gaming area, using a short partition, gate or rope.
-- Brian Brueggemann