Since it was legalized by the state in 2012, video gambling has been embraced by bars and restaurants in Brookfield. At present there are 73 gaming machines located in 16 different establishments in the village.
The first six months of 2015 have brought in nearly $1.6 million in revenue, which is divided up by the state, municipality, establishments and gaming machine vendors.
Video gambling is seen as such an opportunity that Brookfield officials are getting regular calls from corporations that want to locate what are essentially mini-casinos in vacant storefronts.
While the establishments, such as Betty’s in North Riverside, serve beer and wine and a limited menu of food, they aren’t bars or restaurants. Their main purpose is to house video gambling machines and collect gaming revenues.
“The village has been essentially inundated with requests for gaming licenses,” Village Manager Keith Sbiral told members of the village board at their meeting on July 13. “In the last three or four months we probably get three to four requests per week to put a gaming establishment into Brookfield.”
But, according to Sbiral, such establishments only serve to siphon off gaming business from established bars and restaurants. In addition, he said, gaming revenue isn’t predictable.
Instead of inviting gaming parlors into town, Sbiral would like the village board to pass a law to make it harder for such businesses to establish themselves in Brookfield.
“Communities don’t benefit from this,” Sbiral said. “We want good sustainable establishments over time.”
So, on July 27, the Brookfield Village Board of Trustees is expected to pass an ordinance requiring any new bar or restaurant in the village to wait a year before it can apply to the state for a video gaming license.
“If your only goal when you open a restaurant is to have that gaming revenue, the likelihood of that restaurant being sustainable over time isn’t real good,” Sbiral said. “[The proposed ordinance] makes it easy to weed out these uses.”
Sbiral said the law would not apply to established businesses, like Traxx Side on Brookfield Avenue, which changed hands from one owner to another.
“We’re not looking to take it away for a period of time and then bring it back,” said Sbiral. “If you had a license, you can keep the license.”
Village President Kit Ketchmark voiced support for the proposed gaming license waiting period for new bars and restaurants, saying it would protect existing businesses.
“Food and alcohol are secondary to the gaming revenue [with the gambling parlors],” Ketchmark said. “It’s not a lounge, it’s not a bistro — it’s gaming, and it does affect our current businesses.”
In North Riverside, the small storefront Betty’s in the North Riverside Park Plaza strip mall is by far and away that village’s most successful establishment for video gambling. The five machines at Betty’s accounted for 40 percent of the video gaming revenue in North Riverside during the first six months of 2015, according to reports issued by the Illinois Gaming Board.
The application for a second video gambling parlor, Vinny’s, is pending approval before the Illinois Gaming Board.
The unpredictability of gaming revenues is also becoming evident in Brookfield. After seeing remarkable gains during the first couple of years, gaming revenues are starting to flatten out in Brookfield, and some establishments are seeing declines.
In 2014, the machines at the Cordial Inn in Brookfield produced $693,054 in revenue (about $242,500 of that amount went to the Cordial Inn itself). But in the first half of 2015, Cordial Inn’s total gambling revenues amounted to $279,975, which puts their machines on a pace to take in about $560,000 this year.
Brixie’s Saloon on Ogden Avenue saw an even bigger drop in gaming revenues during the first six months of 2015. In 2014, the machines at Brixie’s produced $172,150, but through the end of June 2015, the bar’s machines produced just $45,379 in gaming revenues. That puts the bar’s machines on pace for less than $100,000 in gaming revenues for the year.