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County board gives the nod to video gaming

PRINCETON — The Bureau County Board has given its OK to permit video gaming in the county’s 12 licensed liquor establishments.

Board member Bob McCook raised the issue at Tuesday’s county board meeting by asking Bureau County State’s Attorney Pat Herrmann for a summary of the board’s choices.

The state legislature approved the Video Gaming Act in 2009. Liquor licensed establishments can apply to the Illinois Gaming Board for a license for the digital gambling machines, which provide games such as video poker and blackjack. Licensed businesses may provide up to five video gaming machines in their establishments. Gamers may not bet more than $2 per spin, and the maximum pay-out on any one play is $500. Herrmann said the county had three options.

If the board wanted to ban the video gaming, members would have to pass an ordinance.

If the board wanted to allow the gaming, members would not have to do anything because the county doesn’t have an ordinance banning the machines. Even with no action taken, the county would still get its percentage of the profits.

A third option would be to pass an ordinance allowing the gaming and charging the businesses a fee for “hooking up” each machine.

Board member Jim Donarski suggested letting the Law Committee review the issue and come back with a recommendation, but board member Mike Maynard asked if there was a deadline for taking action.

Herrmann said the board should take action as soon as possible, particularly if it decided to charge a fee for each machine. Since no action was needed for the establishments to start offering the video gaming, it might be too late to charge the fee after a machine was installed.

However, Herrmann said the board could ban the practice at any time.

Board member Joe Bassetti was ready to take action immediately.

“Let it go as is,” he said.

Board member Dan Rabe asked what other counties were doing, and Herrmann said he had received a call from the Putnam County state’s attorney asking for a copy of Bureau County’s ordinance.

Bureau County Board President Dale Anderson said some cities had already taken action on the issue. Some municipalities that have approved video gaming are Peru, Wyanet, Oglesby, Ladd and Spring Valley. The Princeton City Council unanimously adopted a video gaming ordinance June 18.

Board member Steve Sondgeroth asked how the money is divided. Basically, 25 percent of the revenue generated by the machines goes to the state, 5 percent to the municipality, 35 percent to the business owner and 35 percent to the machine operator. Bassetti said he didn’t want to take advantage of the third option and charge businesses a hook-up fee.

“It’s hard enough for small businesses to make it,” he said. “We don’t need to have a yearly tax going to make it harder and put a burden on them.”

The motion to allow the gaming with no hook-up fee was unanimously passed on a voice vote.

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