Legal gaming terminals fire up at Springfield wine store
SPRINGFIELD -- The first legal video gambling terminals in Sangamon County whirred to life a little before 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
Officials from the Illinois Gaming Board, game operators and software technicians packed a small room at the rear of It’s All About Wine, 1305 Wabash Ave., to put four machines through a series of test runs before live gambling began at 1:15 p.m.
At least three more gaming locations — including two Road Ranger convenience stores — are expected to begin operations next week in the county.
“It’s been a long time waiting,” said Guss Candioto of Metro Gaming in Chatham.
Candioto said the amusement and vending business, started by his father in 1945, expects to have about 30 terminals in the region within the year. Another is scheduled to begin operation next week in Taylorville.
The startup on Thursday was not without glitches, including paper jams, reboots and reconfiguration of games.
More than an hour of testing went into making sure the terminals played and paid properly on maximum $2 bets on poker, slot and a variety of other games. An ATM-style, cash-out terminal converts winning tickets into cash on the spot. Video cameras monitor players.
There also are 1-cent, nickel and quarter games with names such as “Dangerous Beauty,” “Siberian Storm,” “Stinkin Rich,” “Black Widow,” “Thundering Buffalo” and “Wild Wolf.”
A sign posted at the entrance to It’s All About Wine includes a toll-free number for players who develop a problem with gambling.
Owner John Roman said demographic research convinced him customers of the wine shop would enjoy video gaming.
“It’s another form of basically adult entertainment, which is what we’re in,” said Roman. “We’re in the adult-beverage industry. So, it’s an extension of our business.
“I looked at the demographics, and the demographics fit our profile almost identically,” he added. “Average age, income level, everything of that nature.”
Roman said he plans to have the maximum of five terminals. Video gambling offers another source of revenue at a time when business has been slowed by recession, he said.
“Everybody’s looking for an alternate stream of excitement or pizzazz in the market,” said Roman, who has been in business for six years.
The shop is within the Jerome village limits, and Roman said Jerome will get 5 percent of the take.
State law requires the machines to pay out to bettors at least 80 percent of what they put in.
After that, 25 percent of terminal revenue goes to the state, 5 percent goes to the local government that issued the license, 0.725 percent goes to system operator Scientific Games, and the rest is divided between the business location and the local terminal operator.
Malin Cremeens of Welch ATM in Peoria said terminals are scheduled to begin operation next week at the Road Rangers at 3752 Camp Butler Road and 500 Toronto Road, as well as the Butternut Hut, a bar at 215 N. Second St.
Welch operates the cash-out devices for video gambling. Seven locations have been licensed in Sangamon County, and dozens more applications are pending.
Just warming up
More than $1 million was wagered and nearly $998,000 was paid out at 60 terminals during statewide test runs in September, according to the first monthly report from the Illinois Gaming Board since legalization.
The figures are expected to grow quickly as dozens more machines come on line in the next few weeks, said board spokesman Gene O’Shea.
“We are adding people online every day,” said O’Shea. He said about 500 terminals have been approved statewide.
O’Shea said November’s report will provide a better indication of revenue, because nearly 300 terminals went live in early October.
The state is counting on video gambling to raise the bulk of the estimated $1 billion in revenues needed to pay for a statewide capital-improvement program signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn in 2009.
Kind of like pinball
Metro Gaming technicians Glenn Weaver and Alexis Elkins said working on the computer-based gaming systems is not all that different from high-tech pinball machines and jukeboxes
“We’re kind of picking this up as we go,” said Weaver. “But most of the jukeboxes are online now, so it’s kind of the same thing.”
The technicians also take classes in video gambling operations.
Elkins said the first installation of any new system is usually the hardest.
“When everything got started, we said this is something we want to do,” said Elkins.
Tim Landis can be reached at (217) 788-1536.
Video gambling licenses approved as of Oct. 29 in Sangamon County
*The Bird Tavern, 1451 W. Jefferson St.
*Butternut Hut, 215 N. Second St.
*Converse Street Bar, 1601 E. Converse St.
*It’s All About Wine, 1305 Wabash Ave.
*Starship Billiards, 2301 Stevenson Drive.
*Road Ranger, 3752 Camp Butler Road.
*Road Ranger, 500 Toronto Road.
Source: Illinois Gaming Board
Video gaming is to provide part of an estimated $1 billion in annual revenues needed to fund a state capital construction program approved by Gov. Pat Quinn in 2009. Here are the estimates by source.
*Video gaming: $288 million to $534 million.
*Private lottery management/online lottery: $150 million.
*Sales and use-tax expansion: $65 million.
*Liquor tax increase: $108 million.
*Increased motor-vehicle fees: $332 million.
*Total: $943 million to $1.189 billion.
Source: Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability