For tens of thousands of businesses throughout Illinois, small profit margins — if any — are a way of life. Business owners are constantly faced with the difficulties of generating new customers to pay their employees, taxes and vendors while at the same time monitoring the flow of expenses to the very penny.

To as many as 7,000 restaurants, bars, fraternal organizations, and even truck stops in the state, the emergence of video gaming on their premises could mean the difference between success and failure.

Throughout the Northwest suburbs, a number of communities have approved local legislation to permit qualifying businesses to house up to five of the electronic gaming devices. In general, businesses that serve liquor are eligible. However, not every town has embraced video gaming with some officials claiming it does not present a good image for their communities. There is also concern that special cafes are being set up for the main purpose of offering gambling with the sale of beer and wine as an extra.

In the immediate area, electronic gaming is allowed in Elk Grove Village, Wheeling, Buffalo Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Rolling Meadows and Prospect Heights. Communities where the devices are not allowed include Des Plaines, Rosemont, Park Ridge, Palatine and Arlington Heights.

A new massive gaming expansion bill approved by legislators in late May increased the number of machines allowed to operate in a qualifying business to 6.

Des Plaines City Council members last night (Tuesday) were scheduled to revisit video gaming. Initial discussion was held in March. It was put on hold to allow time to gather more information on the subject and to wait until after the city’s election that was held in April. In that election, three new young aldermen won. Approval of a gaming bill in Des Plaines has a good chance of passing, in part because several restaurant and bar owners have strongly urged city officials to do so. As for the city, it has launched a program in which new restaurants that open in the downtown area can receive up to $100,000 in start up grant money.

According to the Illinois Gaming Board, Niles, at 25 establishments, and Elk Grove Village at 24, are among Northwest suburbs that allow the most video gaming licenses. In Elk Grove, 117 of the machines are currently in operation at various bars and restaurants, and in Niles, the number is 123. Prospect Heights, with a population of approximately 16,000, is home to 13 electronic gaming establishments and 62 video units; Mount Prospect, 6 establishments at the end of July, with 27 machines; Buffalo Grove 9 establishments and 41 video terminals; and Wheeling 20 establishments and 86 gaming devices.

The number of establishments that would be eligible in Des Plaines is not known, but it could equal or surpass the number allowed in Elk Grove Village.

The main reason why bars, restaurants, fraternal organizations and truck stops are salivating over the prospect of hosting video machines is, of course, money.

In Illinois, more than 7,000 establishments have video terminals. The latest figures show that 32,314 of the machines are in operation and the number continues to cimb. Among the communities where the largest number of establishments with video licenses are state capital Springfield at 592 and Rockford at 455.

Every time a player deposits money into an electronic machine and in every instance when immediate payouts are made, they are swiftly recorded. Also calculated is the “Net Terminal Income” (NTI) from which payouts are made to state and local governments, the establishments, terminal operators, and the company that maintains the Central Communications System that all video terminals across the state are connected to.

In that split, the state receives 28% of the NTI generated at each establishment by the machines, the municipality 5%, the communications system less than 1%, and the establishment and terminal operator 33-½% each.

In Elk Grove, Blackhawk Restaurant Group LLC, owners of four establishments named Penny’s, generated a total Net Terminal Income of $1.8 million based on the state gaming board report for the period Jan. 1 to July 30, 2019. After that money was distributed, the four establishments collected approximately $596,000. According to Anita Bedell, executive director of the gambling monitoring organization Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, the Blackhawk establishments are considered “cafes” whose main purpose is to provide locations where people can play video gaming machines and purchase alcoholic beverages rather than primarily to visit to buy food and liquor and then play the machines.

In Mount Prospect, Draft Picks restaurant on Golf Road is the top generator of video gaming income in the village where more than $2 million in wagers were recorded between Jan. 1 and July 30 this year. With NTI of $185,888, the establishment wound up with $60,000 for that time period.

In Niles, one of the top video gaming producers is Sofia’s Slots & Video Poker, also known as Double Down Brothers, Inc. Its Harlem Avenue location attracted more than $1 million in bets in July alone resulting in $80,567 in Net Terminal Income. From that sum, the company received approximately $26,000. At that rate for the year, their take would be $312,000./>