CARBONDALE — The number of video gaming terminals in Carbondale now has an official limit.
The Carbondale City Council voted Tuesday to limit the amount of video game machines to 100. There are currently 17 locations with 74 terminals licensed gaming terminals with four other locations with pending applications with the Illinois Gaming board.
Working under the assumption that the four new locations are licensed for the maximum of 5 machines, the total number of gaming terminals will be 94, said Carbondale City Manager Gary Williams.
Additionally, Williams said if a business closed that had five active machines, then those five terminal spots would be open.
He said the city continues to receive requests for video gaming licenses, and its staff believes the expansion to video games throughout the city — along with its signage — has begun to create a negative image for the city.
Councilman Adam Loos said Tuesday that it isn’t just signs that are the problem. He said the people who tend to lose money on video gaming are the people who can afford to lose it the least.
“Often, it is people who have an addiction to gambling,” Loos said.
He said the city shouldn’t outright ban the machines, because prohibiting a service that people want generally leads to negative outcomes.
“The better thing to do is regulate it. And one way to regulate it is to limit the availability,” Loos said.
The ordinance was passed by a 5-2 vote, with Councilmen Navreet Kang and Tom Grant voting no.
Councilwoman Jessica Bradshaw was vocal Tuesday, by saying there aren’t many places for a social gathering that don’t have video gaming.
“For the people who don’t gamble on these machines, it is awfully distracting,” she said. “The way it is has dominated our bars and restaurants, it is … distracting. It is totally distracting.”
Loos said if it were up to him he would set the limit lower, and the city would grandfather in existing businesses that had a license, but if a business lost a machine for any reason, it would be gone forever.
“We should reduce it as far as possible,” he said.
Part of the ordinance for approval tonight says "after permitting devices within the licensed liquor establishments since 2012, several facilities, which do not regularly sell alcohol, have obtained video gaming licenses with little to no sale of alcoholic beverages." The ordinance says the city council finds it is in the best interest of the city to establish the cap.
According to the Illinois Gaming Board, Carbondale has generated $146,735.01 in revenue from video gaming from August 2015 to August 2016. The city has generated $299,346.49 since the machines went live in September 2012.