More video gambling could come to Urbana and existing businesses are concerned

URBANA—Urbana could issue more video gambling licenses in the name of generating more revenue, but not all businesses are on board.

When American Legion Post 71 rolled out its video gambling machines in 2012, business began rolling in.

“We did really good back then,” said post commander, Bruce Brown. “We were making $25,000 a month probably.”

So it's no surprise the growing industry wants to expand. But since Urbana issued all 12 of its video gambling licenses, council members must revise the city code before any new companies can play to win.

“We have several businesses that want these licenses, and we're out of licenses,” said mayor Laurel Prussing. “So we talked about it in staff and figured, why don't we just set it at 20.”

The city receives five percent of all money spent weighing the electronic odds and over the past two years, that's amounted to more than $200,000. So the potential added revenue that comes with adding licenses is appealing to Prussing.

“Gambling's not my favorite thing,” said Prussing. “But if Urbana banned alcohol or Urbana banned gambling, people would just go to Champaign.”

Those running the video gambling sites that already exist in Urbana fear they'll be the ones suffering losses.

“It's really cutting into our revenue,” said Brown. “And what you're going to see is the smaller businesses and smaller bars closing.”

“At some point, they're going to start competing with each other,” said Prussing. “But we don't know what that limit is, so we're just going to have to judge it as it happens.”

The city council will decide whether to place that bet when it meets Tuesday evening.

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