Jim Anderson -- Illinois Radio Network

In two years, Illinois’ video gambling business has grown from zero to 18,118 positions.

The industry came into being two years ago, and expanded rapidly with terminals turning up in bars, restaurants, truck stops and veterans’ halls.  The next wave of growth, if there is to be one, will require cities that ban video gambling to un-ban it, says Michael Gelatka, president of the Illinois Gaming Machine Operators Association.

“As these towns come back online and opt in for the benefit of their local businesses, I think that you’re gonna see a huge amount of expansion that is possible, at least, with the number of licenses that are available in those towns,” he said.

Cities can prevent video gambling by opting out under the Video Gaming Act, or by having an ordinance in place that bans gambling and does not make an exception for video gambling. (http://www.igb.illinois.gov/VideoProhibit.aspx)

Last month, players pumped $734 million into those machines.  Gelatka says it’s about 85 percent video slot machines, 15 percent video poker.

A question that arises, though, is whether video gambling is taking customers and action away from Illinois’ 10 casinos (or out-of-state casinos frequented by Illinois residents).  Casino admissions in Illinois are down 13 percent from two years ago, and gross receipts are down 1 percent.  However, Gelatka says those numbers are down in other states too, so it’s hard to pin the decline on the creation of video gambling.

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