St. Charles marks one year of video gambling with mixed results

A report viewed without comment by city aldermen Monday night showed 13 establishments operate a total of 59 video gambling machines in the city, which is up from 45 machines a year ago. The businesses housing the machines range from the St. Charles Moose, which was one of the leading proponents of video gambling, to a Brown’s Chicken.

The existing video gambling machines generated about $1.99 million in net taxable income for the establishments that house them. There’s a 30 percent tax on those profits. The state took $499,002. The city’s share to date has been $99,800.

The total is in line with projections heading into the decision to legalize video gambling in late 2015, which showed the city would net at least $100,000 in new income by having at 53 video gambling machines in operation. But that profit is also far below the top-end income estimate of $700,000 per year for city that also was discussed during the vote to approve.

The numbers are timely for more reasons than having a full-year of active video gambling experience. The vote to legalize video gambling in 2015 was a 5-5 tie broken by Mayor Ray Rogina. The path to legalization was paved, in part, by including a sunset clause that kicks in April 30.

To keep the machines running, aldermen must take a new vote on video gambling. The composition of the city council since that vote is largely unchanged, except for two factors.

Alderman Lora Vitek came onto the council after the vote to legalize. She campaigned on a wait-and-see platform in regards to video gambling. Proceeds back to the city, impact on local crime and measuring the true benefits to local businesses would be the determining factors for her when it came time to take another look at the law, Vitek said last spring.

The other factor may be the resolve of video gambling opponents. During the vote to legalize, gambling opponents vowed to vote out aldermen who supported gambling. That didn’t happen. But arguably the most staunch opponent still remains on the city council in Alderman Rita Payleitner. Asked for her current view on video gambling in the city on Monday, she said: “As for my resolve on ridding St. Charles of video gambling — stronger than ever.”

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