Illinois using gambling machines to finance projects - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Illinois using gambling machines to finance projects

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ROCKTON (WREX) -

Illinois needs money, and one way state leaders think they can hit the jackpot is to give customers a chance to win some cash of their own. It's also got business owners excited, but opponents worried, about the after-effects.

"It gives people something to do, rather than come to drink, or sing, or you know, listen to music," says Troy Sheets, the owner of 3 Sheets Pub in Rockton. "Now they can actually gamble, legally. So I think a lot of people will be attracted to that."

3 Sheets Pub in Rockton is one of several bars in Illinois waiting patiently for its video poker machines to arrive. He's getting three to start, with five being the maximum. It's all in a plan to make more money for state projects, something that's been in the works for over three years.

"If it can help the state's, badly needed infrastructure program, or highway improvement program, then it's definitely a plus," says Rockton Mayor Dale Adams.

Cities and villages can opt out though, for whatever reason.

"It's something that we'll try out, and if it doesn't work, or causes a lot of problems, then we can still opt out some day in the future," says Adams.

And others question it as well. Lee Schreiner, a former member of the Rockford area anti-gambling group, "Enough is Enough", says the social costs are greater than the revenue. Gambling can be addictive. He also believes gambling plans tend to not bring in as much revenue as expected, and Illinois' plan, in his opinion, isn't regulated enough. But not everyone agrees.

"I think it's gonna work," Rockton resident Nick Falzone says. "And I think that Rockton needs something like this to generate more money, more revenue, in order to facilitate the things we need out here to make the quality of life better for everyone here at Rockton."

Revenue doesn't just go to the bar. It's split between state and local governments. Adams says at least 25% goes to Illinois, 5% to the city, and the rest is split between the business owners and gaming companies.

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