Gambling allowed in Carbondale, but will take time

The City Council may have approved an ordinance that allows video gambling machines in the city, but the Strip probably won’t be mistaken for Vegas anytime soon.

After the Aug. 21 ruling to legalize the use of video-game gambling machines in bars and restaurants, businesses are now waiting to receive approval from the state, a process which could take months.

Each establishment must apply for a license from the Illinois Gaming Board, where the board will review the application based on financial status, enforcement strategies and previous legal history.

Mississippi Flyway is one of the restaurants applying for a license.  Co-owner Frank Hiller said he is still unsure how long the process will take or how it will unfold, and the impact on the community is unpredictable.

“This will take time. It’s a pretty in-depth process,” he said. “We’ve never had any machines, but we’re hoping it will bring in business.”

The Carbondale Elks fraternity will also apply for a machine for its lodge.

Hiller said the ordinance should level the playing field for businesses who abided by the law, alleging some places allowed gambling under the table.

B&B Harris Management, a company based in Murphysboro, will contract out the machines.

Buddy Ferguson, co-owner of B&B, said there are a number of factors company members must think about before applying for a license and purchasing a machine, including how to prevent underage gambling. Most bars in Carbondale have an entry-age requirement of 19, but the legal gambling age in Illinois is 21.

Ferguson said he expects the process to be lengthy and complicated, he said, but one that has been in the works for a while.

“Carbondale came into the game late. It’s going to take a while,” he said. “We’ve been pushing to the Carbondale area for a long time.”

Ferguson said revenue from the machines is distributed among B&B, the business with the machine(s), the State of Illinois and Carbondale. Both B&B Harris Management and the business each take 35 percent, he said, and the state takes the remaining 30 percent with the city gaining 5 percent of the total revenue.

Although gambling will bring money to the city, not all council members were on board with its legality in Carbondale.  Mayor Joel Fritzler and Councilwoman Corene McDaniel opposed the ordinance to give it the 5-2 ruling

“Regardless of how we sugarcoat it, it’s still gambling,” McDaniel said.

Despite voting against the ordinance, Fritzler said it’s up to the voters to decide what’s best for the city.

“I do feel it is in the best interest to allow a democratic opportunity for people to discuss it and bring it forth and vote on it,” he said.

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