This year could test just how popular video gambling is in Joliet.
The city has added a licensing fee for distributors and imposed a partial moratorium on new video gambling licenses.
But while the city tries to control the growth of video gambling, one distributor of the machines has warned that many of them will become unprofitable in the coming months because of a new monthly fee charged to terminal operators.
“There’s a good possibility that terminal operators will pull out,” William Stanford told the Joliet City Council in December after the moratorium on video gambling was approved.
Stanford, owner of Stanford Gaming in Joliet, warned that many machines in Joliet operate on a marginal profit. A new $100 monthly fee per terminal will force him to pull machines out this year, he said.
If it happens, it would reverse a trend in Joliet.
State law allows video gambling outside casinos for liquor establishments and gas stations selling volumes of fuel generally found at truck stops. It’s up to municipalities whether they want to allow video gambling or ban it.
Joliet has permitted video gambling at bars and trucks stops since it was made legal in Illinois in 2013, and the numbers have been growing since.
In December, 348 video gambling machines were at 79 locations in Joliet, according to the Illinois Gaming Board. That was up from 316 machines at 74 locations in December 2017.
The city collected $838,483 from video gambling machines in 2018, up from $732,372 in 2017.
The number of video machines have been rising despite the imposition of new fees, said Interim City Attorney Chris Regis.
The city imposed the moratorium on new licenses east of Route 59 while it considers other options on regulation this year, he said. The moratorium does not apply to truck stops. It also does not apply west of Route 59, an area in which housing growth has outpaced commercial development, because the city does not want to discourage new businesses from opening in that part of Joliet.
Despite Stanford’s warning, Regis said he has not seen signs that the number of video gambling machines will go down.
“We got a handful of applications before the moratorium went into effect,” Regis said. “The number is going to go up.”
Even Stanford came to city hall on Dec. 31 to pay the fees required of him, he said.
One reason the numbers have climbed is that operators of bars and clubs see a need to have the machines to compete for customers.
Loren Brooks from the Ravens Athletic Club told the council before it passed the moratorium that the 92-year-old organization wanted to install video gambling and was in danger of shutting down without it.
“Please don’t let that happen to us,” Brooks told the council.
The Ravens were among the handful of applicants that were able to beat the moratorium deadline.