First video gaming machines come to Adams County, with more on way

The first two video gaming machines in Quincy are in the lounge at the Tangerine Bowl. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Jan. 11, 2013 10:34 am Updated: Feb. 1, 2013 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Tangerine Bowl appears to be the first site in Quincy to have video gaming machines installed, nearly six months after a ban on gambling devices was lifted.

The two terminals were activated at noon Wednesday at the bowling alley, 3530 Maine.

Jerry Ulrich, manager at Tangerine Bowl, said a few people have been playing, and he expects activity to pick up as word spreads.

"After league bowling (Wednesday), there was a young lady sitting there playing ... when I left at 9:30 p.m.," he said.

The machines sit in direct view of the bar, which allows employees to keep an eye on who is using them. Players must be 21.

The state allows for up to five terminals installed per establishment, but when the City Council approved video gaming within Quincy in July, it restricted the number of terminals to two to prevent businesses from becoming gambling parlors.

Three machines at Jay and Nancy's Tavern are expected to be activated Friday.

Nancy Ihnen, who owns the bar with her husband, Jay, said the terminals have been in sitting in the tavern for three weeks waiting for the Illinois Gaming Board to activate the machines. The tavern was first awarded a gaming license on Nov. 15.

"Everybody asks us all the time, "When are they coming on?'?" Nancy Ihnen said.

The Ihnens have been strong proponents of video gaming since it was first approved in Illinois in 2009.

Some of the games cost as little as 1 cent to play, but it costs 25 cents to play video poker. The maximum bet on the machines is $2. The maximum payout is $500. After playing the machine, the player receives a card to cash out at a safe on site.

Ulrich hopes the machines will increase food and beverage sales.

"If we get a group of people sitting there playing, they might buy a beverage or some appetizers," he said.

State officials activate the machines daily at 7 a.m., and they are turned off at 1 a.m. The machines are on even when the bowling alley is closed. Tangerine Bowl opens at 9 a.m. and closes by midnight most days.

"We have no control over (when the machines are on)," Ulrich said.

After approving the video gaming machines in 2009, lawmakers said they could generate $375 million annually for the $31 billion capital construction plan. However, launching the program was delayed as a central communications system for the machines was not deemed functional until July.

Regulations call for the state to receive 25 percent of house winnings and municipalities to get 5 percent. Machine operators and businesses that house machines each will get 35 percent.

In November, the state took in nearly $1 million from its share of video gaming machines. Revenues are expected to increase as more sites are added throughout the state.

Only seven licenses have been issued in the area -- four in Adams County, three in Hancock County and one in Pike County. However, many establishments have applied for licenses. In Adams County alone, 23 gaming licenses are pending, with the majority of the applications being in Quincy. Six licenses are pending in Pike County, three in Hancock County and two in Brown County.