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Casino GM meets with Elgin city manager to discuss video gaming

A patrplays one video gaming machines Wednesday Booker's Bar   Grill South Elgin.  | Michael Smart/Sun-Times Media

A patron plays one of the video gaming machines Wednesday at Booker's Bar & Grill in South Elgin. | Michael Smart/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 10, 2013 6:10AM

ELGIN — City Manager Sean Stegall met with Grand Victoria Casino general manager Jim Thomason and two other casino staff for a half hour late Wednesday afternoon to discuss the negative impact that allowing video gaming in Elgin might have on the casino’s bottom line.

“They’re trying to remain competitive, and this wouldn’t help,” Stegall said.

Stegall said he was told that a predictive model the casino has created indicates the Grand Victoria could lose 5 percent of its gross if Elgin decides to let bars, restaurants, social clubs and other qualifying establishments have up to the five computerized gambling machines each could have under the state’s Video Gaming Act.

The city feels it could recoup any money it may lose from its share of the casino’s receipts from its cut of the video gaming money, Stegall said.

At one time the state’s top-grossing casino, the Grand Victoria has seen its numbers drop dramatically after the state smoking ban went into effect, followed by the recession, then the Rivers Casino opening in Des Plaines in late 2011.

The Grand Victoria in 2012 generated revenue of $212 million, compared with $257 million the previous year, a 17.5 percent drop. The city had budged proceeds for 2012 from the casino to be $14.1 million, a 14 percent decrease in budgeted revenues from 2011.

Stegall said Thomason likely will give a presentation at the Feb. 13 council meeting or, at the very latest, at the Feb. 27 session.

At the Feb. 27 meeting, staff will have a draft of the necessary documentation to move along plans for allowing the video gaming in Elgin, Stegall said. At the Jan. 23 council meeting, by what appeared to be unanimous consensus, members directed staff to do just that.

On Jan. 23, dozens of people with ties to a video gaming committee showed up to plead its case for allowing the gambling.

Committee leader Mike Flannagan recently told The Courier-News that many local establishments feel they need the gaming to remain competitive with places in towns surrounding Elgin where it’s already been approved. They don’t see the casual gamblers who would be using the gaming terminals in their establishments as being the same clientele as the casino’s, he said.

Late last summer, Illinois began enactment of the Video Gaming Act, which state legislators approved in 2009 as part of how to pay for a $32 billion capital improvement program. With a thorough background check system in place, establishments only started to offer the gaming in October, and only a handful of places close to Elgin currently offer such gambling.

The law allows video gambling at establishments where alcohol is served for consumption (as opposed to packaged goods liquor stores), plus licensed fraternal and veterans establishments, and truck stops. Payouts are capped at $500 on any one play, and the number of terminals at any one place is limited to five.

The act calls for the gaming vendor and the host establishment each to get 35 percent of profits, with the state getting 25 percent and the local municipality 5 percent.

It also allows municipalities to opt out and have it remain illegal in their borders.

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