North Riverside’s village board paved the way for the village’s second video gambling parlor on Feb. 2 when trustees voted to create a liquor license for an establishment called Vinny’s Gaming Cafe, to be located in a strip mall just west of 17th Avenue at 9261 Cermak Road.
The North Riverside location will be the second Vinny’s outpost in the area. The first opened on Roosevelt Road in Berwyn late last year but is still waiting for its Dec. 10, 2014 application for five gaming terminals to be approved by the Illinois Gaming Board.
Company President Frank Porro, who also operates an automotive service business in Lyons, hopes to have the North Riverside location up and running in six weeks.
Unlike Betty’s, the village’s other gambling parlor, Vinny’s has a full liquor license and will serve spirits in addition to beer and wine. While Betty’s was pitched as a “bistro,” catering to a largely female clientele, Vinny’s unabashedly puts video gambling — the official name of Porro’s company is Vinny’s Gambling Café Group Inc. — front and center.
“It’ll be a little different atmosphere [than Betty’s],” said Porro. “It’ll be a casual, relaxed atmosphere.”
In addition to a full bar, Vinny’s will serve “a light menu,” featuring items like personal pizzas, sandwiches and appetizers, said Porro, noting that while this is his first foray into the bar/gaming business, it’s something he’s been thinking about doing for a long time. When he was approached by a video gaming machine broker named Vince Dublino, Porro “decided to take a shot at it.”
Dublino is listed in Illinois Secretary of State records as the registered agent for Vinny’s Gambling Café Group. He previously operated a bar in Berwyn and a company called C&S Coin Operated Amusements, a Berwyn business that was bombed in 2003 by the Chicago Outfit, which was miffed Dublino was horning in on its turf by supplying illegal gambling machines to taverns.
In 2010, Dublino testified under immunity as a prosecution witness in the trial of Michael “Large Guy” Sarno, who was convicted of racketeering and sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.
Porro said Dublino is “not involved” in Vinny’s and that the inclusion of his name in Secretary of State records was a mistake.
If the experience at Betty’s last year is any indication, Vinny’s ought to thrive in North Riverside.
In 11 months of operation last year, the five gambling machines at Betty’s netted $521,531. About a third of that amount went toward state and local taxes, leaving the owners of Betty’s to split the remaining $365,000 with its gambling machine vendor.
Betty’s is owned by a company called Blackhawk Restaurant Group, an Oakbrook Terrace-based company headed by a man named Bruce Davis. The group’s gambling machine vendor is Illinois Gaming Systems, which appears to be connected with Blackhawk.
Illinois Gaming Systems ‘ manager is listed in state records as Eugene, Oregon, resident William Service.
Service is Davis’ boyhood friend and longtime partner in business ventures featuring video gambling as a key component.
There are now more than two dozen Betty’s locations in Chicago. The North Riverside Betty’s in 2014 far outperformed the four other establishments in North Riverside that offer video gambling. No other establishment’s machines netted more than $288,000 last year.
Meanwhile, North Riverside benefitted from the new gambling tax revenue to the tune of $73,902 in 2014.