Industry Reports

“Sweepstakes” Machines Pop Up Everywhere in Chicago, Competing with Video Gaming Machines

For years, the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, has been against permitting local bars and restaurants to offer video gambling machines, as he has been hoping to ensure an operating for a large downtown casino. However, some unregulated devices which not only look but also work almost exactly the same as video poker machines are emerging in various venues across Chicago.

These machines, which are often called “sweepstakes”, there are currently a number of convenience stores and gas stations across the city which run facilities which are very much like mini-casinos. The problem is that these devices, unlike video poker terminals, are not regulated by the state of Illinois and do not pay any taxes to the state or local Government. On the other hand, state authorities are not engaged in any background checks of sweepstakes machine operators and the businesses which offer them to the local citizens, as required for video poker terminals.

According to media reports, some bars in the area which were found to be unsuitable for offering video gambling machines have installed sweepstakes instead and run them unrestrained. Some of the places which are currently offering sweepstakes machines have been denied an operating license for video slot machines because local regulators had found many cases of illegal sports gambling in some of them.

Apart from the fact that such sweepstakes machines are illegal and are run uncontrollably in Chicago, and they obviously do not pay any taxes to state and local authorities, they are also creating unauthorized competition to licensed operators which pay taxes on their gambling revenue.

Mayor Emanuel Opposes to Video Gambling in Chicago

According to the state gambling watchdog, the Illinois Gaming Board, the so-called sweepstakes machines are not legal. Still, all efforts for stricter regulatory measures to be imposed on the machines have faced major legal obstacles so far.

A number of officials have said that local businesses were not suspended from offering the machines to their customers due to some aspects of state gambling regulation which remained unclear. Sweepstakes machines are emerging everywhere, with them looking exactly like standard video gambling machine.

And despite that the appearance of the machines is not at all different, there is a significant difference for local taxpayers and authorities.

Video gambling was made officially legal by Illinois legislators in 2012. Since then, the licensed video gaming terminals make a 25% contribution of their take to the state of Illinois and a 5% contribution to the local Government. According to the Illinois Gaming Board’s records, through the end of June 2018, the amount was estimated to over $1.2 billion for the state, and a further amount of $250 million for the cities and villages which have legalized video gambling.

As mentioned above, the Mayor of Chicago has long been opposed to adding video gaming machines to the gambling market of the city. As a matter of fact, gambling is currently banned in Chicago, and Mayor Emanuel has reiterated his preferences to limit gambling to only one casino at a central location.