For the past couple of years, every now and again, someone would stand up at a North Riverside Village Board meeting and express some concern over the number of establishments offering video gambling.
In particular, the worry was over the number of freestanding gambling parlors. “Just how many is enough?” they would ask. Now there’s an answer.
On Jan. 21, North Riverside trustees voted 5 to 0 to cap the number of gambling parlors at 10.
“I had been asked by residents and trustees if there was going to be a limit,” said Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. “You have to be tactful about it. I think 10 is a reasonable limit.”
At present, the village has eight gambling parlors with half of them strung out along Cermak Road west of First Avenue.
Cermak Road is also home to two bar/restaurants offering gambling and there are two non-traditional gambling locations along the street as well – one inside a gas station minimart and one inside a liquor store.
Hermanek said he gets fairly regular inquiries from parties seeking information about opening a video gambling businesses in North Riverside.
“We’re not saturated yet, but we can’t have them every third storefront,” Hermanek said. “It’s first come, first served. These [licenses] are not going to last forever.”
While there are no applications in front of village officials right now, Hermanek said he’s heard that the owner of Cardinal Liquors, 8340 Cermak Road, is thinking of decreasing the size of his retail operation in order to build out a gambling café next to it.
Video gambling has become an important and growing source of revenue since the first establishments installed the machines back in 2013.
In 2018, the village of North Riverside’s share of the state’s video gambling tax was $250,215. That represented a 26-percent increase over 2017 and a 119-percent increase since 2015.
On top of that revenue, North Riverside charges standalone gambling parlors significantly more for liquor licenses than regular restaurants and bars that offer video gambling.
While a bar or restaurant owner will fork over a little more than $3,000 annually for a liquor license, if you’re operating a video gambling parlor you can expect to pay either $13,000 or $15,000 depending on whether you’re offering just beer and wine or if you’re offering hard liquor as well.
The gambling parlors owned by corporations that operate several establishments throughout the state typically pay the high license fee without question. Hermanek did say, however, that this year a couple of the smaller companies asked if they could expect another increase in the fees next year.
With more than $100,000 in fees being collected for the gambling parlor liquor licenses annually, on top of the village’s share of state taxes, residents have not voiced too many objections.
“It softens their concerns, knowing how much revenue we’re gaining,” Hermanek said. “But there is a point where there can be too many.”