By Howard Packowitz
BLOLOMINGTON – Bloomington bar owners and gaming machine operators have Mayor Tari Renner on their side to end a moratorium on video gaming licenses.
John Canham of Prairie State Gaming believes roughly half the bars in town want a sixth gaming machine, and he noted Governor JB Pritzker is counting on extra gaming revenue to fund various projects.
“If Bloomington says no sixth machine, and every other municipality followed suit, there’s a $200 million shortfall for the governor’s budget this year. He’s not going to be happy about that,” said Canham.
He added that an extra machine does not amount to a major expansion of gambling.
“Anything that sixth machine will get utilized is probably on a Friday or Saturday night when the bars are packed,” said Canham.
“Most of the time, you go into a bar, there are two or three games being played, so it’s not like it’s a huge increase in gaming, and you should be worried about it.”
Canham spoke while joining some other gaming terminal operators and local bar owners at Renner’s most recent open house.
Mayor Renner said the ban is an obstacle to economic development and makes it harder to close some real estate deals.
“We should be tearing roadblocks down, not erecting roadblocks to jobs and investment in this community. If this were anything other than gambling, I don’t think we’d even be having this conversation,” Renner said.
“We are not, comparatively speaking, saturated compared to Decatur or compared to Champaign, and there are consequences,” the mayor added.
“Essentially what you’re doing is giving people a monopoly who already have the machines.”
City Council member Joni Painter has championed the moratorium. Painter, and her council colleagues Jenn Carrillo, and Donna Boelen are working on a set of options for council consideration.
Howard Packowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org