ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The City of Rockford has given video gambling operators the green light to add more machines.
On Monday, Rockford aldermen voted to increase the maximum number of machines allowed at each location from five to six.
Jay Gesner, owner of Souse’s Lounge and Stumpy’s Bar and Grill, who also owns the Miss Jill’s branded video poker and gaming parlors, says he’s planning on taking advantage of the new law.
“Obviously, we’re not packed all the time, but when it’s busy, it’s good to have the facilities to take care of the customers that are coming in,” Gesner said.
The decision from the Rockford City Council follows statewide changes that went into effect with the expansion of the Illinois gaming bill.
“This ordinance, essentially, just mirrored the state law and updated our fee schedule, which, right now, allows for five gaming machines, to the six, to comply with state law,” said Rockford Legal Director, Nicholas Meyer.
The same legislation which is allowing a casino in Rockford also increased state taxes on the machines, as well as letting gamblers bet and win more.
As for the Hard Rock Casino, Gesner says he isn’t too worried about losing business.
“I think it will have some impact, but not as much as other people think it does,” he said. “I think that neighborhood gaming is kind of the way things are going, all over the country.”
Gesner says he thinks there is a different audience for a big casino and smaller businesses, like those he owns.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think they’ll do fine out there. But they’ll draw from the outside, and it’ll be a place to go for events,” he said. “A lot of the people that come in here, it’s their neighborhood place. It’s their stop-off before work or after work, or coming out for a couple of drinks at the end of the night, and playing a few games.”
Gesner says his customers value the convenience a neighborhood location offers.
“They don’t want to have to drive in, deal with a big parking lot, deal with walking up. Here, they drive right up, they get up, they do what they want to do, and they’re back home within a couple of hours,” Gesner said. “So, I think we both have our niche.”
The Illinois Gaming Board website lists how much money is made at every business that has licensed gaming machines. In September, the net terminal income for all the machines in Rockford was well over $2.5 million.