Video gambling hits the jackpot in Galesburg

Illinois seems to be cashing in when it comes to video gambling. That’s because the machines have pumped more than $100 million into the state’s sagging economy this year.

Reels are spinning, and bars like Galesburg’s Cherry Street are winning. Video gambling is a big hit at this mom-and-pop business.

“It’s fantastic,” said owner Stan Devlin. “The revenue that they’re bringing in has allowed us to do things we would not have been able to do without it.”

Cherry Street was the first Galseburg business to get gaming machines. Since starting last October, it generated six figures in revenue.

Just in June, Cherry Street’s machines paid out some $33,000 to customers.

There are now some 1,800 Illinois businesses with video gambling. More than 2,000 applicants are waiting to get in on the action.

“The play has slowed a little bit,” Devlin said. “But it’s leveled off, and we’re happy where it’s leveled.”

But while Illinois gaming boosts cash-strapped communities, it could create more problems for cities like Galesburg.

Pastor Tyson Parks knows about the lost jobs and broken dreams. At historic Allen Chapel, he worries that expanded gambling will tempt the most vulnerable residents.

“I understand the state’s dilemma,” he said. “I’d like to see them come up with other options if at all possible.”

State and local governments also get a percentage of the gambling revenue. While that won’t bust the massive Illinois deficit, it can enhance local services and programs.

“I just hope that what they’re doing will help the community in the overall scheme of things,” Pastor Parks concluded.

For now at Cherry Street and others, it’s just the ticket to boost business.

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