Sweepstakes Machines Are Taking Over Chicago

Publish: 09.08.2018
Rahm Emanuel, the Mayor of Chicago, has been vocal in his concept of disallowing restaurants and local bars from hosting video gambling machines, working on a large downtown casino instead. Unfortunately for him, sweepstakes machines are taking over the streets. These machines can be found in gas stations as well as convenience stores. They work and look exactly like video poker machines and function like mini casinos in their own right.

These terminals, unlike video poker machines, are not regulated by the state of Illinois, making them unsafe for the users. Additionally, unregulated machines mean zero taxes for the authorities. No background checks are conducted on these machines and their operators, which allows them to continue functioning perennially in public spaces.

Some media reports also suggest that bars in the area that could not offer video gambling machines are installing these unregulated, harmless-looking sweepstakes machines instead. Some of these places were denied a license for operating video slot machines because of their involvement in the illegal sports gambling scene. While these machines are creating a regulation and taxation problem for the authorities, they are also giving tough competition to the licensed gambling operators. They are placed at convenient locations and are cashing the revenues of legal entities.

The Illinois Gambling Board, the state gambling watchdog, suggests that these sweepstakes machines are not legal. However, legal obstacles are making it difficult to crack down on this illegal business. According to some aspects of the state gambling regulation, local businesses cannot be suspended from offering such sweepstakes machines.

When video gambling was made legal by the legislators in the state in 2012, it helped in bringing 25% contribution to the state and 5% contribution to the local authorities. In fact, the Illinois Gaming Board record suggests that by the end of June 2018, the state earned over $1.2 billion from legal gambling while the cities and villages where these legalized spaces were places earned an additional $250 million.

At this time, the Mayor’s position of allowing only one casino in a location seems in jeopardy. Mayor Emanuel continues to keep gambling banned in Chicago while these illegal machines are popping up everywhere. This has created a serious problem for legal gambling machine operators in the city. Now, Chicago authorities will have to look into the matter and either regulate these machines, outlaw them, or allow licensed video gambling machine operators to tie up with different local entities to install their own video machines.