Illinois video gaming proceeds are underwhelming tavern owners and city council members who had been hopeful the newest state gaming would bring a windfall of profits and taxes.
Reporting by Times journalist Brian Wellner disclosed that Rock Island County’s gaming cities collected $120,957 in video gaming taxes in the first year of operation, about half of what some predicted. Smaller than expectations, perhaps, but that figure is derived from the cities’ 5 percent tax. That means Quad-Citians wagered about $2.4 million in taverns during the first year.
The next year looks to be much different.
Some Illinois entrepreneurs are developing gaming boutiques aimed at women and featuring wine, coffee and café dishes. Stella’s Place, planned for Hoffman Estates, Ill., is described in the Chicago Tribune as “a neighborhood cafe and gathering place for adults to enjoy a light meal and gaming.”
“Maxine’s” is a similar chain described as “a contemporary take on the Rat Pack era.” “Shelby’s” will carry a small-town diner theme. Other new clubs include “Emma’s Eatery,” “Dotty’s,” “Lucy’s Place,” “Penny’s Place” and “Betty’s Bistro.” More than 20 “Lucy’s Place” gaming cafes are open downstate with more on the way.
This new effort includes investment by the former head of Zynga, international Internet gaming entrepreneur Mark Pincus, who now is focusing U.S. efforts on these boutiques.
Here in the former Riverboat Gambling Capital of the World, we’ve seen wave after wave of gaming laws lead to unexpected outcomes. Tavern gaming was aimed at raking in new tax revenue by legalizing the unlawful electronic gaming already flourishing in many Illinois bars. Now it is being stretched by investors to create these gaming boutiques for women.
That’s among the reasons Illinois should resist granting more casino licenses until lawmakers and the gaming board better understand the impact of this new trend. The current Illinois and Iowa gaming models grant mega casino licenses, which frequently include city incentives for hotels, infrastructure or performance centers like Bettendorf’s city-owned Waterfront Convention Center constructed with the Isle of Capri.
This boutique trend certainly will impact Illinois’ existing casinos. And if the past portends the future, we can expect Iowa to be studying the revenue potential of these gaming cafes.