Video gambling file photo

A winning match comes up on a video poker machine at Starship Billiards in this Oct. 2014 Herald & Review file photo. 

Herald & Review photos, Danny Damiani

DECATUR -- More than $2.5 million in tax revenues have been collected by the city of Decatur since video gaming machines first came online.

The number comes just as Decatur and the state of Illinois reach the four-year mark since legal video gaming machines began to pop up at bars, restaurants, clubs and specialized gaming parlors.

Decatur has taken in $760,593 from machines this year, according to numbers from the Illinois Gaming Board. Money from the machines are placed in the city’s general fund.

There were 372 machines across 79 establishments in August, up from the 294 machines at 62 at the start of the year. There were 245 machines across 52 locations as of August 2015.

The trend has begun to plateau in recent months, as there was no increase in the number of machines between June and July. That is a first since the machines first started to appear in the city. However, the city still has the third-highest number of machines of any municipality in Illinois, behind only Springfield and Rockford.

And efforts to stem the proliferation of the machines in the area have already begun at city hall.

The Decatur City Council voted Sept. 6 to cap at 30 the number of licenses given to establishments whose primary purpose is to have machines. That is the number of existing establishments and those with pending license applications.

Over time, the city will reduce the number of parlors to 20 through attrition; while new parlors must be located at least 1,500 feet from other parlors.

Mayor Julie Moore-Wolfe said at the time that the idea for a cap was put to the council by the public who were concerned by the growing number of establishments and how it reflects upon the local neighborhoods.

“While we're not making sweeping changes to close anybody down, we are making some changes so we're answering the general call of the public,” she said.

Since the implementation began with just 60 machines in September 2014, video gaming has now blossomed into a major business, with 24,000 machines at more than 5,600 establishments across the state.

Nearly $785 million in state and local tax revenues has been generated in the past four years, with $9.2 billion dollars having been played on the machines since their arrival, according to figures generated by the Illinois Gaming Machine Operators Association.

“Our goal from the beginning with video gaming has been to make an economic difference: for our partners who draw players to their establishments, for their employees and patrons, and for our state and local governments who need tax revenue to support their services and programs,” said Michael Gelatka, president of the association, which represents video gaming terminal operators who provide the machines for establishments and the industry as a whole.

A study by the operator’s association found video gaming tax revenue could grow to about $500 million a year if the about 150 municipalities that don’t allow video gaming jump in the game, specifically the city of Chicago.

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Staff Writer

Government-watchdog reporter for the Herald & Review.

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