A strip mall located outside the city of Chicago sits half empty, with the owners planning on converting the empty space into video gambling cafes. After seeing applications for licensing, the Illinois Gaming Board voted not to give the strip mall the approval to offer such gaming. The Board felt as though the cafes would have skirted state regulations and created what they are calling a ‘back door casino’.
The mall is located in Hometown, a small town with less than 5,000 people. Officials of the town hoped to see the mall used to create jobs and hopefully spur development in the region. The mall has been around for decades and many businesses have left the strip, with nothing taking their place. The casino parlors that were proposed would have their own gaming terminals and be operated separately, but placed under the same roof.
During this past Tuesday’s meeting, the Board voted unanimously to reject video license applications for the three operators of the proposal. Donald Tracy, the Gaming Board Chairman, stated that he views gaming malls as back-door casinos and without the traditional safeguards of licensed casinos which includes regulated security, position limits, self-exclusion, internal controls, etc.
In 2009, the state legalized video gambling, with the option for certain establishments to offer no more than five gaming terminals. So far, the video gambling has been a steady source of revenues. Because the option has been profitable, small towns are considering creating gambling venues. However, members of the Board feel that this would create neighborhood casinos, which was not the intention when video gaming was passed.
Kevin Casey is the Mayor of Hometown who stated that using the term ‘casino’ is ridiculous as they wouldn’t offer blackjack. If the project were to be approved, as many as sixty jobs could be created, with the option for spinoff business which would bring in new customers. Casey even hinted at the larger gambling institutions being behind the motive of the board, as they would not want the competition, though the Board says their decision has nothing to do with the larger gambling facilities in the state.