O'Fallon Progress

What will O’Fallon and Shiloh do with video gambling revenue?

Fairview Heights resident John Hamilton said he’s been bowling at St. Clair Bowl for nearly 25 years and is happy the City of O’Fallon allows video gambling so he can dabble at the gaming machines after he bowls.
Fairview Heights resident John Hamilton said he’s been bowling at St. Clair Bowl for nearly 25 years and is happy the City of O’Fallon allows video gambling so he can dabble at the gaming machines after he bowls. rkirsch@bnd.com

This month marks four years since video gambling was legalized in the state of Illinois. While the Village of Shiloh approved the activity within its village limits for businesses and non-profits to have since its legalization, it was only last year that O’Fallon residents voted ‘yes’ to overturn a three-year ban on the activity’s allowance.

“We have a fairly substantial amount coming in to our municipality now, and it sits in our general fund currently,” O’Fallon finance director Sandy Evans said.

Establishments providing, and the company operating, the terminals receive 35 percent of the terminals net terminal income and 30 percent goes to the state and local bodies. Of that 30 percent, 25 percent goes to the state, while 5 percent goes to the municipality.

Evans said the city figures its percentage of revenue totals $62,405.32 based on the fiscal year running from May 2015 to April 2016.

“The city received $36,108.35 in licensing fees from the businesses and organizations,” Evans said.

For every terminal, a municipality will receive $1,000 from businesses and $250 from non-profit organizations on an annual basis.

As of April 30, there were 13 establishments, totaling 54 terminals in O’Fallon. As of Sept. 27, there are 14 establishments with 57 terminals. The number of terminals at each establishment ranges from three to five — the maximum number allowed per business in Illinois.

Formerly Doc’s Bar and Grill, also known as Starlight Businesses LLC, on East State Street closed its doors and became inactive in terms of video gambling revenue as of April 29, 2016, according to O’Fallon deputy city clerk Maryanne Fair. Last fiscal year the establishment contributed $678.17 to the city and $3,391 to the state.

The village of Shiloh has three establishments with a total of 15 terminals.

Brenda Kern, Shiloh village clerk, said Shiloh’s generated revenue from video gambling in July 24, 2013 was $927.51 a month. As of Aug. 16, the monthly revenue was much greater at $2,738.66. In all, the village has received $84,782.03.

“We’ve always earmarked our percentage of the revenue to go straight toward the Shiloh Police Pension fund, and we will continue to do so,” Kern said.

The city of O’Fallon has not yet earmarked its portion of the revenue. “That will be up to the city council to decide,” Evans said.

There is no future date slated for the city council or its finance committee to make a decision, she said.

Nancy Chase, a representative of St. Clair Bowl, said video gambling revenue from the Trixie’s Gaming Parlor located inside the bowling alley has helped the business over the past year.

“We’ve been able to take care of some much needed improvements here that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise without this income like painting the inside over the summer, we are getting all new tables and chairs, and we even added new bumpers to 10 lanes that previously were lacking. So, now more youth can actually use the lanes when leagues are playing,” Chase said.

The video gaming terminals stay busy, she said, with a waiting line sometimes.

According to monthly reports from the Illinois Gaming Board, video gambling has produced close to $785 million in state and local tax revenue since the machines were legalized four years ago.

There are more than 24,000 video gambling terminals in more than 5,600 bars, restaurants, fraternal clubs and other establishments in Illinois, according to Illinois Gaming Machine Operators Association.

“Our goal from the beginning with video gaming has been to make an economic difference — for our partners who draw players to their establishments; for their employees and patrons; and, for our state and local governments who need tax revenue to support their services and programs,” said Michael Gelatka, the association’s president and terminal operator from Chicago’s south suburbs.

A 2015 study commissioned by the association shows, almost 45 percent of Illinoisans live in areas where video gambling is still not allowed.

One Fairview Heights resident John Hamilton said he’s happy that O’Fallon passed video gambling.

“I’ve been bowling at St. Clair Bowl going on 25 years now and I come here often. When I heard they opened a video gaming room, I was surprised but satisfied,” Hamilton said.

Now he can bowl and gamble while he visits the establishment that has five terminals in a quiet, dim lit video gambling room called Trixie’s Gaming Parlor.

Smithton resident Jim Rogers, who bowls at St. Clair Bowl often, doesn’t partake in video gaming.

“I won’t give those machines any of my money; I just don’t have the patience for it, or the butt (sitting for long periods),” Rogers said. “I don’t support these machines because people don’t have any control over winning or losing like they do for blackjack, craps or horse racing where you chose the odds and you deal with real people.”

St. Clair Bowl, located at 5950 Old Collinsville Rd., is located within Fairview Heights city limits, but is governed by the city of O’Fallon, Chase said.

St. Clair Bowl leads the way as reeling in the most profits compared to the other 13 establishments in O’Fallon with $444,305.14 net terminal income from its five terminals. The Illinois Gaming Board reports from April 2015 to September 2016 show St. Clair Bowl had $1.7 million in ‘funds in’ and $1.2 million in ‘funds out.’ The gaming reports are public information.

The establishment and the terminal operators collected approximately $155,500 during that period each with $22,215.36 going to the municipality and $111,076.91 going to the state.

“These numbers confirm video gaming has grown steadily since its inception. As more people turn to the games for their entertainment, both goverments and local businesses have seen many benefits,” Gelatka said.

Coming in second in top revenue generating business is Ribs & More, located at 108 Regency Park Dr. Ribs & More was formerly called Japanese Garden. It had a net terminal income of $308,153.41 of which $77,039.10 went to the state and $15,407.82 to the city.

The lowest revenue generator is Hemingway’s Zen Garden LLC, located at 123 E. First St. in O’Fallon, with only two terminals having a net terminal income of $1,790.97 of which $447.74 went to the state and $89.56 went to the city.

O’Fallon American Legion Post 137 representative Cheryl Hill said without video gambling terminals, the legion would have great difficulty paying its utility bills.

“Without it I don’t know what we would do,” Hill said.

O’Fallon Ward 4 Alderman Herb Roach said he’s glad the fraternal organizations in town are able to have decreased annual fees to help them alleviate financial stresses such as decreased patron traffic.

“I know it’s been a huge help to the non-profits in town like the American Legion, VFW and Knights of Columbus Halls, and my feeling in the past and still today is the money should be used for helping to offset costs to the local schools and our public safety officers or department because whether it goes to schools or safety purposes, it’s all going toward something positive in the community that every taxpayer contributes too,” Roach said.

With the recent 911 communications consolidation underway, Roach said the revenue could possibly be used for assisting with that initiative.

“Or some could very well be used for the police department where they have certain needs especially with mandates that come down periodically that are unfunded for example, body cameras,” Roach said.

Robyn L. Kirsch: 618-239-2690, @BND_RobynKirsch