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Gamble pays off: Gambling revenues reach record high; numbers up locally, too

Video gambling has seen significant growth in Illinois, with revenues increasing by more than 75 percent in just the last 3 years, a new state report concludes.

The report released last month by the state’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability found that video gambling racked up a net income of $1.4 billion in the fiscal year that ended June 30, generating about $70 million in tax revenue for local governments.

Video gambling is the driving force behind overall gambling revenues that reached a record high last year in Illinois, The Chicago Tribune reported.

Illinois’ first legal gambling machines were rolled out only 6 years ago, in October 2012.

Through October of this year, Dixon’s share of video gambling proceeds totaled more than $1.2 million; Rock Falls has garnered slightly more than $832,000, and Sterling a bit more than $709,000, with each year’s take steadily rising, mirroring the statewide trend.

In all video gambling sites, the amount of money played is only slightly higher than the amount of money that is won back by players – usually around 10 percent higher or so.

The state collects a 30 percent tax on net terminal income, which is the amount gambled minus what is paid out; 25 percent of that goes to the state and 5 percent to the municipality.

The remaining 70 percent of the income is split between the host businesses and the machine operators.

So far this year in Dixon, where 27 establishments have a total of 120 machines – eight fewer than last year – more than $59 million was played through the end of October, which translates into more than $240,000 for city coffers.

In Rock Falls, 22 establishments and 106 machines have seen slightly more than $45.5 million played, a windfall of nearly $191,000 for the city so far.

In Sterling, where there are 23 establishments and 109 machines, nearly $42 million has been played, earning the city about $182,000, with 2 months to go this calendar year.

Those numbers are on track to beat the last two years’ totals.

In calendar year 2017, when Dixon had 128 video gambling machines, the total for the year was $67.5 million gambled, with $275,000 to the city. That’s about 9 percent more than in 2016, when more than $64 million was played, earning the city nearly $251,000.

Gamblers in Rock Falls, which had five more machines then than now, played $50.8 million, bringing the city about $204,600, last year, which was about 15.5 percent more than 2016, when more than $43 million was put in its machines, bringing in more than $173,000.

In Sterling, which had 13 fewer machines in 2017 than now, $44 million was played last year, garnering $178,000. That compares to nearly $31 million played in 2016, bringing in about $126,500 – an increase of about 29 percent.

And compare those figures to 2013, the first full year video gambling was allowed;

Dixon ended that year with 86 machines in 20 locations, with $17.8 million gambled and a take of about $75,000; Rock Falls, with 42 machines in nine establishments saw $9.4 million gambled and $40,000 earned; while Sterling’s 52 machines at 11 locales saw $9.1 million played and about $38,000 earned.

Video gambling’s success is helping offset the “relatively stagnant performances” of the lottery, horse-racing and river gambling, the report said.

Illinois’ riverboat casinos have seen their revenues decrease by more than 15 percent since video gambling machines were introduced in 2012.

But some Illinois business owners argue that the popularity of video gambling is diluting the market.

Juventina Mesa of La Cabana Mexican Restaurant in Melrose Park said most of her customers come in to gamble on the restaurant’s video poker and slot machines. But business isn’t as good as it used to be because there now are five businesses in the strip mall that have machines, she said.

Illinois lawmakers are considering whether to expand gambling in the state by adding sports, sports fantasy and online betting. But the report concludes that these ventures would need to appeal to new consumers in order to make a difference in the government’s earnings.

“The state could have a large expansion of gambling, but yet have little new tax revenues to show for it,” the report said.


Want to know how much money was spent, lost and earned on video gambling in your town, and at which establishments?

Go to, click on "Video Gaming" and then on "Monthly Reports" and search for your town.