Jacksonville, like the rest of the state, seeing big benefits of video gaming

By Gary Scott on January 30, 2015 at 7:24am

Local municipalities are mirroring state trends when it comes to increases in video gaming revenue.

2014, the second full year of legal gaming in Illinois, saw revenue at a total of nearly $165 million last year, up from about $75 million the previous year. That’s according to the Illinois Gaming Board’s report issued this week.

The city of Jacksonville saw a little over $200,000 of video gaming revenue last year, up from about $115,000 in 2013, according to the state. There were 24 establishments in the city that had video gaming terminals, up from 16 in 2013.

The total amount wagered was $50.6 million; nearly $45.6 million of those wagered dollars were paid out in winnings.

Jacksonville aldermen focused on video gaming extensively in 2014, ultimately deciding to limit future “gambling parlors” and imposing a higher fee on the existing parlors.

Aldermen requested last year that the city identifies specific projects the video gaming revenue is going towards. Mayor Andy Ezard agrees that’s a good idea.

“We’re constantly searching for new revenue streams with the City of Jacksonville. We’ll keep identifying certain projects, and we’ll try to let the council and let the general public know what that money was put towards,” says Ezard.

“The council’s always coming up with projects that they’re requesting, and if the video gaming money can come in handy and [there are] specific projects that they would like to do, then we will certainly go that direction.”

Ezard cites the project that put sidewalks from Turner Junior High School to the YMCA as one that wouldn’t have happened without gaming funds.

He says gaming was controversial in Jacksonville when it was first introduced, but he says the activity has kept people in Jacksonville who would instead gamble elsewhere.

“They didn’t have to travel to a casino in Alton or Peoria,” he says. “I don’t anticipate this going up another 100 percent from the last year. I’m hopeful that it will at least maintain these numbers, but you always wonder, since more people are playing games, what bill aren’t getting paid? That’s always been a concern of mine,” Ezard adds.

Other municipalities in the four-county region showed similar increases last year, in some cases nearly tripling revenue totals.