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DeKalb County businesses, towns cash in with gambling

Dan Cliffe, of DeKalb, plays Double Joker Poker on a video gambling machine Thursday at Sullivan's in DeKalb.
Dan Cliffe, of DeKalb, plays Double Joker Poker on a video gambling machine Thursday at Sullivan's in DeKalb.

Frank Schuchard bet $20 on a game of Kitty Glitter and within minutes hopped off his bar stool with $57.

The $37 profit excluded, it’s a common scene at video gambling machines in bars across DeKalb County, according to figures from the Illinois Gaming Board. More than $30 million was wagered at video gambling terminals across DeKalb County in 2013, with about $120,000 reaching bank accounts of local governments.

As of December, DeKalb County was home to 151 terminals. State law allows licensed liquor-serving establishments, licensed truck stops, and licensed fraternal and veterans establishments to host up to five licensed terminals. There are more than 14,000 terminals operating across Illinois, generating money
for state and local government as well as establishments where alcohol
is served and gaming terminal

Kitty Glitter is one of many different types of games available to players around DeKalb County.

Shuchard, a daily player, hits one of a series of buttons on the machine in hopes of stopping the revolving columns of icons on the screen in an order that awards him extra turns, bonuses, and best of all, cash.

“The trick is to take the money and run,” he said as he tried his luck at one of five machines at Cub and Spank’s in Sycamore. 

If the numbers are any proof, most people don’t follow Schuchard’s advice. Gambling machines in DeKalb County took about $2.44 million from gamblers last year. 

Spending cash for government

Twenty-five percent of a terminal’s income goes to the state, five percent is funneled to the municipality where the terminal is located, and three-fourths of a percent is directed to the gaming company that operates the network for the terminals.

Officials in DeKalb, Sandwich and Sycamore, the municipalities that saw the most video gambling play in 2013, have various ideas about where the extra revenue should go. In DeKalb, people spent $7.7 million on games, in Sandwich $6.5 million and Sycamore $3.3 million. As a result, DeKalb earned about $32,000, Sandwich $25,000 and Sycamore $14,000. 

Rudy Espiritu, assistant city manager for DeKalb, explained the money video gambling generated for the city goes into the general operating fund, where it will be used to reach a reserve fund goal set by the City Council.

In Sycamore, the money will go toward sidewalk repairs, City Manager Brian Gregory said.

Sandwich will decide where the money will go once budget discussions start, Mayor Rick Olson said.

“It’s good that the revenue is staying here,” Olson said. “I think more importantly it cleans everything up above the cast of some illegal activity.”

Bars also benefit

The remaining 69.25 percent is evenly split between the establishment where the terminal is located and the terminal operator. The terminals are generating an ever-growing amount of revenue for the state, which took in $9.6 million in January.

Bar owners said it’s more than just the terminal income that boosts their billfolds.

Five machines at Sullivan’s Tavern in DeKalb went live June 1. In December alone, they saw $213,000 in play. Owner Earl Sullivan said the bar stools in front of the machines are most coveted Thursday afternoons and Friday nights, but some people come in for a gambling fix in the morning, too. The machines also draw new customers, which generates other revenue.

“We’ve seen different people come in that we’ve never seen before,” Sullivan said. “They come in and play, maybe get some food, get a drink.”

Despite only having 1,500 residents, Waterman saw $2.4 million in play in 2013. Kingston has a population of 1,100, but terminals there saw $2.2 million wagered.

Not all communities across the county were on board with video gambling when it went live in 2012. The first machines in Maple Park and Somonauk both began operation in November.

Although Schuchard and the rest of the people who park themselves in front of a terminal play millions of dollars every year, the maximum prize is $500 on the minimum $2 bet.

“You might say, ‘I’ll win something, I’ll come out with that,’ but you’re not going to win,” Scuchard said.

That is, before he won.

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