Champaign City Council to Allow Video Gambling Machines to Increase in Number

The Champaign City Council has made a decision to allow local establishments that are licensed under the existing legislation to increase the number of video gaming terminals (VGTs) from five to six.

The measure was given the green light with 7 to 2 votes by the City Council on November 19th. Champaign City Council members Will Kyles and Greg Stock were the only two members of the body who voted to reject the VGTs expansion.

Since they were officially permitted in 2012, the video gambling machines rose in number in Champaign-Urbana. They grew in number so much that in 2018 the City Council voted to impose a cap on the permits for local lounges and cafes to host such machines to 23.

Apart from the changes applicable to the number of VGTs, the maximum betting limit that could be spent on the machines was also boosted under the state law from $2 to $4, so now local punters could lose twice as much money as they used. The wagering limit’s increase, however, did not require any council action. According to information provided by the Illinois Gaming Board, the total amount spent by Champaign gamblers on video gaming machines in the last fiscal year was worth $16.8 million.

Artificial Restrictions on VGTs Would Not Actually Affect Problem Gambling Rates, Change Proponents Claim

The change is made almost two years after the city of Champaign passed a number of regulations regarding video gambling services. The VGTs were officially permitted in 2012, and since then, the city has been allowing businesses holding liquor licenses to offer the machines in their premises. After so-called video-gambling cafes or lunges started operation, the city unveiled licenses especially for them.

Not all residents of Champaign, however, welcomed the changes gladly. Some of them shared their concern with the number of gambling establishments in the city, especially in the community areas known for their lower income. According to the opponents of the change, the larger number of VGTs would lead to more money spent on the machines, particularly by people who have very limited finances.

On the other hand, there were supporters of the measure, too. Tom Bruno, a council member who backed the increase, compared the machines to the liquor store’s aisles. According to Mr. Bruno, any efforts aimed at forcibly limiting the number of machines available across the city is doomed to failure. The council member explained that it would be the same thing if the authorities make an attempt to address alcoholism by imposing restrictions on the number of liquor store’s aisles.

Furthermore, Mr. Bruno believes that any artificial restrictions that could be brought to the number of video gambling machines would affect people who enjoy the industry and the available services but are not addicted to gambling.

For the time being, a $250 fee is applicable for each video gambling machine in Champaign. This means that the increase of the terminals’ number could generate a further $13,000 in fees alone on an annual basis.