City of Moline cashing in on video gambling boom

News

Gambling machines in Moline could soon come with a hefty price tag.

That’s because city leaders are looking at upping the charges for machine owners. 

At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, aldermen discussed a proposed ordinance that would charge the owners $1,000 per gaming machine. 

Video gaming terminals have been allowed in licensed establishments within Moline since 2012. 

As of now, each establishment is charged a $50 fee per machine. 

Most local establishments don’t own the machines they host. Instead they lease the games from larger gaming companies. 

By charging the proposed $1,000 fee to those gaming companies, leasing the machines could become more expensive for local businesses. 

This latest ordinance comes in the wake of Moline’s recent advertising ban for gaming parlors. 

On Wednesday, a few local restaurant owners said they don’t support the ordinance, saying if gaming takes a hit in the city, so will their businesses.

Moline Mayor Stephanie Acri tells Local 4 News the recent crack down on gambling is part of an effort to address the concerns of both neighbors and city leaders. 

“We are just looking to address the issue of gaming in Moline through this fee,” said Mayor Acri.  

Laurie McNamee, owner of V.I.P’s Bar and Grill in downtown Moline, says she’s worried that an ordinance that is meant to regulate gaming parlors across the city is going to have more devastating affects on small businesses like local restaurants. 

“There has to be another way to go about getting the extra money that they’re looking for than just adding another thousand dollars to each machine,” said McNamee. “I think it’s going to hurt the smaller businesses versus the gaming places themselves.”

While local businesses may not see the $1,000 fee directly, it could still make leasing the machines more expensive. 

“It would make some people decide if they want to keep the machines or not depending on the extra fees that they’re throwing in for them,” said McNamee. 

Nick Neppl, owner of Nico’s Hispanic Cuisine in downtown Moline, says small gaming systems can make a big difference when it comes to paying the bills. 

“For me it helps pay the rent and pay off the loans, and the overhead on a restaurant is pretty high so every little bit adds up.” 

McNamee says losing the machines could cost them thousands of dollars. 

“You’re talking $40-50,000 loss right off the bat…that’s what it’s doing for a lot of small businesses that I’ve talked to other owners. That’s how they’re surviving.” 

And for Neppl, it could even mean closing their doors for good. 

“If I have a slow month and I’m depending on these machines it could mean potentially that I shut down and I can’t do business in Moline.” 

And now they’re worried a big win for the city could leave local businesses at a loss. 

If the ordinance is approved, Moline would gain around $155,000 in additional revenue each year. Mayor Acri says she’d like to see the addition funds go toward resurfacing and maintaining city streets.

Local 4 News took a closer look at just how much the city has profited from machine owners in recent years.

From January to October of 2016, Moline collected more than $142,000 in taxes from machine owners. In 2017, that increased to nearly $172,000. 

And during the same time frame this year, the city saw it’s largest profit to date, collecting more than $247,000 in taxes from machine profits.

Mayor Acri says the council plans to make a final decision at the next meeting, which is scheduled for December 18.

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