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Harvard lounge first in county to offer video gaming

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HARVARD – Tom Orr inserted a $5 bill into a video gaming terminal, looked down at the lit-up board of buttons, and popped the flashing green “play” button.

Two dollars down. He popped it again. Two more dollars down.

He put in $10 more Tuesday, and then he got hot. In no more than 10 minutes, Orr cashed out with $40 to become the first McHenry County resident to gamble – and win – at one of the terminals.

“It was a little better than I thought,” Orr said shortly after his success at the machine.

More than three years after lawmakers passed legislation allowing video gaming, the state clicked on 278 video gaming machines in 65 licensed establishments Tuesday, according to a news release from the Illinois Gaming Board.

Hub Lounge, 15 N. Ayer St., Harvard, was the first McHenry County location with working terminals. Its terminal operator completed the machines’ setup about 3:30 p.m. Rosati’s Pizza, in the Lake County portion of Lakemoor, also has been licensed to start the machines, and was awaiting service from its terminal operator Tuesday afternoon.

The gaming board so far has licensed 341 businesses, fraternal organizations, veterans organizations and truck stops. Many of those are waiting for service from their terminal operators, whose finances first must be approved by the board.

The board is processing applications from an additional 2,223 establishments, 127 fraternal organizations, 198 veterans organizations and 66 truck stops, according to the news release.

Gaming terminals at more locations will become operational in the coming weeks and months, the release said.

Cindy Waldo, owner of Hub Lounge, said she and some of her patrons were sitting around Tuesday morning when the machines turned on for the first time. The state controls when the machines are off and on, Waldo said.

“There’s nothing we physically have to do besides scan the ticket and give the people their money,” she said.

Waldo said she applied for a license with the gaming board in April, and was granted the license in June. The machines were delivered in late July.

She’d been awaiting Tuesday’s “go live” date for about three years, she said.

“I’m hoping this is going to get more people to come out,” Waldo said. “They can gamble a little more because they don’t have to drive.”

About 10 people were at Hub Lounge on Tuesday afternoon when the machines became operational.

Orr, a Harvard resident, said he will continue to play the machines from time to time.

“I’ve gambled a lot,” he said. “I used to go to the boats and the casinos. I know when to get out.”

Tom Moble of Harvard decided to watch others play the machines Tuesday afternoon, but said he’d give them a try later.

Moble said he plays the lottery and gambles at off-track betting locations regularly. In some ways, the video machines might take the place of such gambling, he said.

Thirty percent of profits from the machines go to the state, which then passes 5 percent of its share to local municipalities. Nearly all of the remaining profits are split between the establishment and the terminal operator.

Less than 1 percent of profits goes to Scientific Games, which built and will maintain the central communication system for video gaming in Illinois.

Video gaming will bring in an estimated $375 million a year to the state, which will go toward $31 billion in construction of schools, roads, bridges and other projects

Video gaming can be approved or banned by local communities. In McHenry County, Harvard, Huntley, McHenry, Woodstock, Marengo, Spring Grove, Fox River Grove and Richmond are among municipalities that have authorized it.

Bans exist in Crystal Lake and unincorporated McHenry County.

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