The fiscal year-end numbers are out, and the state’s municipalities know what their online gambling share will be for the recently closed fiscal year.
While some cities used the previous year’s revenue for very specific purposes, uncertainty surrounding the state budget has local officials in a more conservative mindset.
Rock Falls will receive slightly more than $107,000 from the fiscal year ended April 30. That money was generated from 63 machines at 14 establishments.
The city used last year’s gambling revenue for police cars. Some of this year’s money is also headed to the police department, but the prospect of huge cuts to the state’s Local Government Distributive Fund loom large.
“We’ll continue to make the police car payments, and we hope to put computers in some of the squad cars,” City Administrator Robbin Blackert said. “Things are very different this year, however, and the rest will be put away for general operations.”
Morrison has never line-itemed any of its gambling money. The city has only 24 machines at five locations, and stands to bring in close to $29,000.
“All of that money goes to the general fund to help maintain a healthy balance for general operations,” City Administrator Barry Dykhuizen said. “With all of the talk of cuts in Springfield, we believe it’s even more important to not designate a specific purpose.”
Dykhuizen said he wasn’t surprised by the Morrison council’s recent decision to turn down a special liquor request from Sullivan’s Foods to accommodate gambling machines.
“The council has always indicated that it was not ready to go outside what they believe was the original intent of the video gambling law,” Dykhuizen said.
Dykhuizen said he continued to be surprised by the numbers from the Illinois Gaming Board.
“The amount played is staggering – much bigger than I had expected,” Dykhuizen said. “It will be interesting to see where this goes in the next few years.”
Some of the numbers are eye-popping. In Dixon, there are 99 machines at 23 establishments. The city will receive just short of $186,000 from the past fiscal year. The amount played came in at about $13.75 million.
With all of the recent personnel changes at City Hall, officials are discussing options for using the gambling revenue. Several ideas are being entertained.
“There has been talk of earmarking it,” Mayor Li Arellano said. “But the general consensus seems to be that, since it’s not steady revenue, we’ll mainly be looking at one-time uses, but we haven’t decided yet.”
One of those uses could involve fighting substance abuse, a problem that was identified by several officials and residents along the campaign trail.
“We have discussed using some of that money for our ongoing efforts in the area to deal with addiction problems,” Arellano said.
Dixon is even looking at setting up a separate fund for the gambling revenue stream. The mayor said it would be one of the topics addressed at the city’s budget meeting Tuesday.
Sterling’s council in February passed an ordinance to limit the expansion of video gambling within city limits. The new law tightened its definition of “primary business” regarding the sale of alcohol, which would keep most gambling parlors out of town.
Sterling will receive about $89,000 from the recently closed fiscal year. The city has 57 machines in 12 establishments.
Mayor Skip Lee said the gambling money would again be put into the general fund for no specific designation. Lee said he thinks the thought process regarding gambling money has probably changed from this year forward.
“Initially, this might have been viewed as extra play money,” Lee said. “But now it’s going to have to go into the general fund every year in most cities.”
The state’s share for the year is slightly less than $190 million.