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PAXTON — Paxton has joined several other communities in East Central Illinois in allowing video-gaming machines in bars and other eligible establishments.
The Paxton City Council voted 6-0 Monday to amend its code of ordinances to allow video gaming as authorized by the Illinois Video Gaming Act, a state law that goes into effect Aug. 1.
A number of municipalities in the area have been revising their long-standing ordinances that outlaw gambling so that businesses can have video-gaming machines once the law goes into effect. Meanwhile, other towns that do not have ordinances that apply to gambling, such as Gibson City, will be allowing video gaming by default.
Paxton Mayor Bill Ingold said he feels that with so many towns allowing video gaming, Paxton might as well, too.
“The gist of it is, if people are going to gamble — if they’re going to drive to Peoria to play slot machines — they’re going to do that,” Ingold said. “And when you have surrounding communities where (video gaming machines are) going to be available, they might as well be available in Paxton.”
Ingold said three bars in downtown Paxton are interested in having up to five video-gaming terminals in their respective establishments — the maximum allowed under the law. The bars — Jumpin’ Jax, Paxton Bowl and Shooky’s — hope to see an increase in business as a result, Ingold said.
Jumpin’ Jax owner Victor York and Shooky’s owner Mike Shook were in attendance at Monday’s city council meeting. Shook, along with Paxton Bowl owner Tom Borbely, have already applied for a video-gaming license from the Illinois Gaming Board, and York said he plans to also apply for a state license now that the council has allowed video gaming.
The Video Gaming Act allows video-gaming terminals at licensed liquor establishments — businesses that have liquor licenses for consumption of alcohol on their premises — as well as at licensed truck stops and at veterans/fraternal clubs in Illinois. As of this week, there were hundreds of businesses, mostly bars, and organizations like American Legion posts that have applied for licenses from the state gaming board. The licenses are for one year and require the payment of a $100 fee per machine.
The ordinance approved Monday by the city council requires establishments to also be licensed for video gaming in the city. Each will be required to apply for an annual license for each machine and pay a $25 fee for each machine. The license is nontransferable, and the fee is nonrefundable, according to city attorney Bob Martensen. A business’ liquor license can also be revoked if the business misuses video-gaming terminals.
The city could see some benefits from video gaming, in addition to bars seeing more business. Under the state law, a tax of 30 percent is imposed on the net income each terminal generates, Martensen said. The state collects the tax and keeps five-sixths of the revenue, and then distributes one-sixth to the city.
Ingold said that some of the area towns allowing video gaming are Buckley, Fairbury, Farmer City, Gibson City and Rantoul. Fisher also recently passed an ordinance allowing video gaming, but the mayor vetoed it.
Paxton’s ordinances applying to gambling have been in effect for many years, Martensen said, and have been amended “from time to time.” The latest amendments, approved Monday, state, among other things, that a video-gaming terminal is not a gambling device. The ordinances were earlier revised to say a person who plays a video-gaming terminal is not guilty of gambling.
Shook said the video-gambling terminals look like the slot machines one can find at casinos.
According to the Illinois Gaming Board’s website, a video-gaming terminal is “an electronic video-gaming machine that plays or simulates the play of a video game authorized by the board upon the insertion of cash.”
Authorized video games include video poker, line up and blackjack.
The terminal must utilize a video display and microprocessors in which the player may receive free games or credits that can be redeemed for cash. An on-site vault-type or kiosk system dispenses the cash.
The video-gaming terminals are not the “amusement only” devices currently seen in many Illinois bars.