Springfield officials are worried about the impact a new Illinois casino may have on the town.
Last week, the Springfield Committee of the Whole pushed back against a resolution for a new casino in the state capital. The committee believes a casino could help some local businesses, but drown others.
There are 757 video gaming terminals (VGTs) located in various small businesses across Springfield, which is the most of any town in the Prairie State. According to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, they brought in just under $50 million in the previous fiscal year.
The concern is that bettors would take their action to casinos instead of video gaming terminals. A casino would also lower the money small businesses bring in from drinks, food, etc.
Would a Springfield casino cannibalize local businesses?
Ryan Bandy, president of the Central Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, owns Springfield sports bar Win, Lose, or Draught. Bandy told The State Journal-Register that video gaming is a huge moneymaker for his business:
“My bar wouldn’t be there without the gaming. I’ve been able to expand (the bar) and pay my people well and offer employees health insurance.”
The CILBA unanimously voted against bringing a casino to Springfield, along with future possibilities of the move. It also gave the thumbs down to casinos opening in nearby towns.
But Bandy said the group is always open to discussions, and the SCW is scheduled to meet again on Nov. 15.
Springfield mayor’s odd idea
Mayor Jim Langfelder proposed the idea of limiting the gaming options at a potential Springfield casino to keep patronage up at local businesses. Langfelder said he’d green-light the proposition that any new casino would be prohibited from offering video gaming.
Bandy recognizes this idea is a bit outlandish. He told The State Register Journal:
“Quite honestly I’ve never seen around the entire country, that is a casino without slot machines. Down the road, does something get changed? That’s why (the CILBA is) in strong opposition now. That math has shown it in other communities, the impact on the small businesses.”
Roy Williams, 3rd Ward alderperson, believes that despite the heavy pushback against a casino, it doesn’t hurt to have the conversation.
But 10th Ward alderperson Ralph Hanauer agrees with Bandy that a casino’s impact on locally owned businesses would be too great. Hanauer said:
“We bring in a casino. It’s going to be from outside. It’s going to be a big company. Let’s say we do get it. How much does the city get out of it and what does it do to these guys?”
Langfelder believes one positive a casino could bring is the revival of Springfield’s Wyndham City Centre, a 30-story hotel that has seen business dwindle in recent years. Langfelder believes a casino could repurpose the hotel and bring more tourism to town:
“Everybody was saying you need hotel rooms. We heard two developers say they can’t get financing for a 400-room hotel. (A casino) would give us the opportunity to possibly create value for that area.