Business is booming with video gaming

Published 08/26 2013 01:32PM

Updated 08/26 2013 02:03PM

LOGAN COUNTY -- It's been less than a year since Illinois legalized video gaming. Some of the first machines were installed last fall, but already, some business owners say the games are doing wonders for their bottom lines. WCIA-3's Alexandrea Davis meets a couple of bar owners in Logan County.

Tom Imming has seen a lot of changes to Illinois law since he first opened Tom's Lodge in 1969. Imming says hardships came with the 2008 smoking band and the 1980 change to the drinking age.

"Throughout the years, the legislature has been really hard on the liquor industry. But, this is the first thing, positive thing, they've ever done, is grant the machine usage."

It got so bad, Imming actually installed a few machines before they were legal. The state found out and took them away and the lodge lost more than just an illegal machine.

"The cash flow, and also the customer count, because there are some people who come in here just to play the machines."

At that point, Imming considered retiring, but then, in October 2012, the Video Gaming Act took effect.

"They took them out in August, and I got mine in December."

Imming says that's when things started looking good; so good, he stayed in the business. Last month, machines at Tom's Lodge, took in more than $22,000.

"The machines became active. I started getting the checks. I'm
happy with the checks and so I moved my retirement date back."

Just down the road, in Lincoln's Glass House Tavern, Irv Gesner is whistling a similar tune. He also had his illegal machines taken out.

"Business went downhill quick when they was first taken out. We still had our pool leagues and everything, but business fell off quite a bit."

Gesner's bar was the first in Logan County to get the games. Soon after they were up-and-running, his bottom line went from red to black. In July, the five gambling machines at The Glass House took in nearly $78,000.

"Business picked up a lot because a lot of people like to gamble and a lot of them do it out of enjoyment. Some do it out of habits."

Under the act, establishments get 35% of the revenue and Illinois takes 25%. The city or county supplying the license gets 5%.

Overall, Imming says it's good for everyone.

"There's been more interest and more play since it's been legal."

According to the Illinois Gaming Board, the state has installed nearly 9,000 video gaming machines as of the month of July. Last month alone, the state's 25% take from all the machines was more than $6 million.

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