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Bars waiting on state for video gambling

Published: Monday, Sept. 3, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

DeKALB – A number of DeKalb County businesses still are waiting to hear from the state to see if they will be able to host video gaming terminals.

Jeff Risman, owner of J & K's Half Moon Tavern, 120 W. Lincoln Ave. in Hinckley, said he hopes to have two machines installed "if we even survive long enough to get them."

"I've been in the business for 16 years," Risman said. "This is the toughest year I've seen."

Risman said Hinckley is a small community made up of farmers and construction workers – two industries that have been adversely affected by the nationwide drought and recession, respectively. Risman and his company are waiting for the results of the background check being conducted by the Illinois Gaming Board.

A spokesman for the Illinois Gaming Board was unavailable for comment.

In 2009, lawmakers approved the installation of gaming terminals in bars, truck stops, and fraternal and veteran organizations that have a liquor license. However, they allowed local governments to restrict or opt out of the program all together, assuming video gaming isn't already banned in the municipality.

For instance, video gambling is banned in Maple Park, Somonauk and Sycamore, according to the IGB's website. On Monday, the DeKalb City Council voted to legalize video gaming in establishments that allow only adults 21 and over to enter.

DeKalb's ordinance goes into effect Thursday and will expire Jan. 1, 2019, unless the council votes to extend it. By passing the ordinance, DeKalb joins other communities where these terminals are allowed, including Cortland, Genoa, Hinckley, Kingston and Waterman.

Earl Sullivan, owner of Sullivan's Tavern, 722 E. Lincoln Highway, said he has been working on the issue from the very beginning. Sullivan appeared and spoke at nearly all of the city council meetings in favor of legalizing video gaming.

"Our business has been down just like everybody else's business," Sullivan said. "Things aren't what they used to be. Hopefully this will be a chance for improvement."

Sullivan said he has sent in his application for the five maximum terminals, and is waiting to hear back from the IGB. Sullivan said he hopes to have his terminals installed and online by November or December.

Four other establishments in the city have applied for licenses as well. Along with Sullivan's Tavern, KJ's Tap, 518 E. Lincoln Highway; American Legion Post 66, 1204 S. 4th St.; Mardi Gras Lanes, 1730 Sycamore Road; and O'Leary's Irish Pub & Grill, 260 E. Lincoln Highway, would have to create a separate area and secure leases with the machine suppliers as well.

Houlihan's Tavern & Grill in Waterman has been approved for a license by the IGB. Owner Tom Houlihan, however, said he does not know when the state will come by to install the communications equipment for his three terminals.

How much money the terminals will bring in is unknown, but the establishments will get the lion's share of the net revenues, which is good news for Risman.

"Business is so tough being in the tavern industry," Risman said. "We're reaching to make any little money we can to survive."

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