Gaming machines spreading slowly in Morton Grove
Robin Ellis of Morton Grove plays a game at Bringer Inn on Monday. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 25, 2013 11:36AM
Last September, Morton Grove’s Bringer Inn was the first tavern in the state to go live with video gaming machines.
While the owner of the local landmark said business on the machines has remained brisk, so far they’ve been turned on in only one more local business, Tommy’s.
However, five other locations have applications pending before the Illinois Gaming Commission, said Peter Falcone, assistant to the Morton Grove village administrator.
“Bringer Inn and Tommy’s are the only two we have up and running right now,” Falcone said. “It’s a fairly long process.”
In response to the new state law that allows the gaming machines, the village last fall approved amendments to its liquor code, reducing the number of licenses.
The new state law allows video gambling machines in some businesses that serve liquor and the gaming license is tied to the liquor license.
The measure approved by the village board changed the maximum number of licenses that can be issued, created a new BYOB license for restaurants and incorporated state language governing the newly allowed video gaming terminals.
In Morton Grove, they are allowed in establishments that hold class A, class B or class C liquor licenses.
The A license allows the sale of alcoholic beverages, both for drinking on-site and sales of packaged liquor. The board reduced the maximum number from 15 to eight.
The class B license allows the sale of beer and wine on premises. The board reduced the maximum number from 15 to eight.
Class C licenses are for private clubs only. The board reduced the maximum number from four to two and they are held by American Legion Post 134 and the Moose Family Center.
Both organizations currently have gaming machine licenses pending before the state, Falcone said.
In addition Betty’s Bistro has made application for two locations in Morton Grove, one on Dempster and one in Washington Commons. The last business with a pending license is Classic Lounge, the bar in Classic Bowl.
Falcone said the state puts restrictions on the operation of the gaming machines and the village has added its own requirements.
For example, he said, the state demands that the machines be in a separate area equipped with surveillance cameras.
The village, he said, also requires that the cameras have the ability to record activity at the machines and that cameras be installed at all entrances and exits, including those used only by employees.
Another requirement of the village, Falcone said, is that the surveillance cameras be accessible by police officers over the Internet so that they can easily check on any problems that might come up.
He said officers can also access the cameras using smart phones.
“If we get a call that there’s an issue at one of the establishments, they (officers) can quickly go online,” he said.
“It’s kind of Big Brotherish,” Falcone added. “It’s just an added precaution.”
The Bringer Inn was the first business in the state that had the gaming machines activated. At the time, co-owner Mike Cummings said business picked up.
Recently, he said that increase in customers has continued.
“It’s been terrific,” Cummings said. “All in all, it’s been a really good thing for us.”
It’s also good for the village, Falcone said.
The village has received about $1,000 a month from each machine. He estimated the annual take at between $12,000 and $15,000 for each one.
“It’s right on target from what we anticipated,” Falcone said.
Under the state law, the village receives 5 percent of the income from the machines. The owner of the machines, an outside company, and the owner of the business each get 35 percent. The remaining 25 percent goes to the state.
Falcone noted that every $90,000 to $100,000 the village can take in from some other revenue source is equivalent to a percent in property taxes.
“Every little bit helps,” Falcone said.
Though the village limits the total number of licenses, Falcone said the village did not include anything in its modified liquor code that requires businesses with the gaming machines to be a certain distance from each other. Instead, he said, officials are relying on market forces to handle that.
“The way it’s working now, it’s been self policing,” he said. “They’re being separated enough that they’re not on top of each other.”