Video gambling is a rapidly-growing business in Champaign. A rough estimation showed that gamblers frittered away more than $45.26 million during the past five years. Quite expectedly, the city was among the biggest revenue winners among all other cities in Illinois. According to various studies, the video terminals have resulted in thousands of lost jobs. Apart from that, a number of people have developed a gambling addiction.
Champaign legalized video gambling in 2012. At present, there are almost 60 gambling-centric establishments across the city. This means that there are over 260 gambling terminals, that can be found in liquor licensed venues, including bars, restaurants, cafés, veterans or fraternal clubs and gas stations. Last year, the city council have decided to keep this number unchanged, imposing a moratorium on new machines. The city officials voted in favor of the prohibition in an attempt to win some time to discuss additional regulations.
Champaign’s Approach Towards Video Gambling Industry
As it can be recalled, last September the council discussed the addition of some regulations. Apart from the tax hike on the licenses and the gambling terminals, the city councilors considered allowing gambling-centric establishments to operate without serving food. The owners of such gambling-establishment were not impressed by the councilors’ decision.
The city staff also recommended a $500 gambling rider to be imposed on restaurants and bars that want to offer video gambling as a side activity. In order to determine if the establishment is to operate mainly as a bar or restaurant, but not as a gambling venue, the city councilors discussed a 12-month waiting period before riders are granted a license.
The council also discussed also changing zoning regulations in an attempt to limit the gambling establishments to certain areas. In that way, the city council aimed at preventing large concentration of gambling establishments at one place. The moratorium is set to expire on 23rd January this year. On 16th January city councilors are to discuss the addition of regulations.
Chuck Zelinsky admitted that video gambling is an important component of the city’s economy, but he believes that the number of the gambling terminals should be controlled. Former Champaign Mayor Don Gerard explained that local people spend most of their money at the gambling-centric establishments instead of at the veterans halls and locally owned establishments. In that sense, the video gambling industry hits the profitability of local businesses that do not offer gambling options. Mr. Gerard elaborated that he wanted to launch “a massive liquor-code overhaul”, but he lost the election before realizing his idea.
Champaign’s current Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen explained that the video gambling industry should be restricted to already existing establishments. According to the city’s top official, the drastic expansion of the video gambling industry in Champaign is a result of the city’s approach towards granting video-gambling licenses.