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Video gaming wagers, machines trending up

Businesses say terminals bring in new customers

July 3rd, 2017 12:49 PM

Updated: Jul. 5th, 2017 3:27 PM

Thomas Vogel

Staff Reporter

Clarification: The Illinois Gaming Board lists both "amount played" and "funds in" on its monthly video gaming reports, among other metrics. "Amount played" represents the total value of funds played in a given terminal. "Funds in" is defined as the physical dollars put into the machine by gamers.

So, if a gamer inserts a $20 bill into a terminal and manages to parlay that into an additional $20 and then continues gaming, the total "amount played" at that point is $40. But, the "funds in" number remains at $20.

For May 2017, the total "funds in" at Forest Park's 64 terminals was $412,637.

The "amount played" was $1,098,828.64.

In a July 5 phone call, a spokesman for the Illinois Gaming Board called both metrics "accurate" and declined to answer when asked which number is a better gauge of gaming activity. 

Video gaming in Forest Park continues to expand as gamers wagered about $1.1 million in May 2017, netting the village just over $4,000. 

Since February, Forest Park businesses have more than doubled the total number of gaming terminals — from 24 to 64 — with 14 establishments now offering gaming, up from five in February. Wagers are up too, with a month-over-month increases of about $350,000, from April to May, according to the Illinois Gaming Board. 

O'Sullivan's Public House, 7244 Madison St., got five gaming terminals in May and built out a separate room to house them, between the main bar area and the outdoor patio, General Manager Phil Mammoser said. 

"Nothing has changed really aside from it's another activity for people," Mammoser said. "Everything's pretty much the same, it's business as usual." 

Mammoser said the machines are popular throughout the day, though there is increased activity throughout weekend nights. He added he sees a variety of customers playing, from 21-year-olds to older folks.

"A lot of people who are eating and drinking, they'll go check out the machines and play a little," Mammoser said. "...In the early going, it seems like it going well."

O'Sullivan's share of wagers since May is about $3,750. 

Matt Mathey, owner of Chalk Craft Beer House, 7414 Madison St., got five gaming terminals in December 2016. He said the machines have brought in new customers and are most popular during the evening hours. 

"They'll have a couple beers, you know, watching the Cubs game," Mathey said. "I don't see anybody throwing their paychecks in there."

The machines in Chalk are out of view from passersby on the sidewalk and are separated from the rest of the bar by a partition. 

For Mathey, the machines help add revenue and equalize a competitive business environment. Since December 2016, Chalk's share of wagers is just over $16,000 according to Illinois Gaming Board documents. 

Several surrounding towns, including Berwyn, allowed gaming years before Forest Park, which passed an ordinance in October 2016 allowing gaming. Local voters rejected video gaming nearly 2-1 in a 2013 non-binding referendum.  

"I would look at the numbers [from the Illinois Gaming Board]," Mathey said. "It would make me sick. It was ridiculous we had to wait that long."

Mathey said he looks at the machines as a "business tool" and added customers wanting to gamble will find a place, in Forest Park or elsewhere. Once popular bar games, like darts or pool or video hunting games, just aren't as popular as they once were, Mathey said. 

And video gaming provides a thrill those games couldn't. 

"We have some big winners here," Mathey said. "Last week I had one kid who won like $790; two days later another kid won $900. People do win big amounts of money on these things."

But not everyone in the village supports video gaming. 

Jordan Kuehn, chairman of Let Forest Park Vote on Video Gaming, told the Review he had no update on his group's efforts. Kuehn's committee has tried to get the video gaming question on a local election ballot several times, mostly recently in April 2017. 

Even with 14 businesses offering gaming, there is potential for that number to increase. Illinois Gaming Board documents show 11 more pending applications for gaming licenses, although the total number of Class V licenses required by Forest Park remains capped at 20. So, just six more spots are available. 

Those bars and restaurants include: Circle Inn, 7300 Circle Ave., Oak Leaf Lounge, 7412 Harrison St., 12 Street Wings, 7247 Roosevelt Rd., Big Boss, 7600 Madison St., Pioneer Tap & Liquors, 7443 Randolph St., Carole's Next Best Thing, 7307 Roosevelt Rd., Backyard Kitchen & Tap, 7330 Harrison St., Kevil's on Circle Avenue; Angelo O'Leary's, 7522 Madison St., McGaffer's Saloon, 7737 W. Roosevelt Rd., Shortstop Lounge, 7425 Madison St. 

There is a $5,000 annual fee for the necessary Class V license and an additional $25 fee for every gaming terminal. 

The village's cut of wagers goes into its general fund and is not earmarked for a specific purpose. 

As reported by the Review, two of those applicants, Kevil's and 12 Street Wings, have closed since they submitted paperwork. 

12 Street Wings, which voluntarily gave up its liquor license in February 2017 after a string of incidents including late-night noise and fights, closed at the beginning of April. Kevil's closed April 30. 

The Forest Park Village Council, as reported by the Review, adopted a resolution in October 2016 allowing local businesses to apply for video gaming licenses. The ordinance, which passed unanimously, prohibits businesses from putting signage in their windows. 

The majority of gaming spots are on Madison Street, with a few spread along Circle Avenue and Roosevelt Road. 

In May 2017 just three establishments — Mugsy's, Duffy's and Chalk — collected about half of all wagers, roughly $500,000. 

Martin Sorice, who owns several bars in Forest Park, told the Review he was too busy to talk and was headed out of town for vacation. 

Calls to Goldyburgers, Duffy's, The Beacon, and Mugsy's were not returned by press time.