Video gaming numbers released, gambling discussed at state - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Video gaming numbers released, gambling discussed at state hearing

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As Rockford leaders head to Chicago trying to sway the state on bringing casinos to our area, the state releases revenue figures for a form of gambling we already allow.

We told you last week about the City of Rockford on a roll with revenue from video gaming. In Rockford we have 330 machines at more than 60 locations. A number some support and others are still fighting against.

"I think it's atrocious. I think the way the state wrote this bill it limits our authority so drastically." -says 3rd Ward Alderman Tom McNamara.

McNamara wishes Rockford had say on how many machines are allowed in the city. Plus he has concerns over something the city does control how to spends its cut of players' losses. The Illinois Gaming Board just released new figures for March of this year. The City of Rockford earned more than $90,000. City leaders thought it might cap at $75,000. According to administrator Jim Ryan, this revenue has been a big help paying for fire, police and public works vehicle upgrades. He says that's an item usually first on the chopping block. McNamara would like to see it spent elsewhere.

"The money that we receive is unencumbered dollars. And I really think we should be using that money to help drive economic development." -McNamara says.

Meanwhile, Rockfordians on both sides of the gambling issue head to Chicago arguing for and against a Forest City casino. Mayor Larry Morrissey says possible revenue can help resolve issues weighing on Rockford more than other U.S. cities.

"In the City of Rockford, unlike many other parts of the state parts of the nation we continue to suffer unemployment, poverty and crime much higher than our peer cities in other parts of the state, other parts of the country."

Anti-gambling advocates worry it'll allow the industry to prey on Rockford's vulnerable and area addicts.

"If a casino is approved for Rockford please consider then increasing social services and assisting the provider at a greater percentage of revenue than the owners of the casinos because we have to deal with the mess they created." -says Rockford Urban Ministries Executive Director Stanley Campbell.

Wednesday's gambling hearing was in front of the Illinois House Executive Committee. If the proposed casino bill is passed it would be the third attempt going in front of Governor Pat Quinn.

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