Having a go on the pokies at the local club is nothing out of the ordinary here Down Under. In the US, though, it’s a different story – at least, in most states. For the last few years, Illinois has been stealing a page from Australia, installing slot machines at a dozen municipal golf clubs across the state to help generate revenue.
As most of us well know, Aussie clubs wouldn’t survive without the financial support from video gambling. Thankfully for them, poker machines are so popular, many of our clubs have no trouble staying afloat on the funds they raise.
They story hasn’t been the same in Illinois, where a 2009 law that allowed bars and restaurants to install slot machine was exploited by numerous golf courses in 2013, who began dealing in video gambling devices in an effort to make more money from local patrons.
As of now, more than a dozen municipal courses throughout Illinois have slot machines in their establishments. They split the revenue generated by the slots with the companies who manufacturer and install them. But not all of them are experiencing a positive return.
Records show that, since 2013, all of the clubs, housing a combined 55 gaming devices, have generated a little more than a million in revenue (after taxes) from their operation.
Two of the states public golf clubs, located in Chicago Heights and University Park, saw such small returns from the gambling devices that they can no longer afford to operate them. In more than 18 months, these two courses brought in just $17,268 (after taxes) from a combined 7 slot machines. As such, the video gambling terminals have been removed from the properties.
Patronage was so low at University Park’s public range that, after reporting hundreds of thousands in overall losses, the course shut down entirely in early 2016. The property’s management has since been turned over to a private company.
Records indicate that North Chicago’s Foss Park District has had the most success with its slot machines. The 18-hole golf course was the first to offer video gambling in the state back in April 2013, and has netted just over a quarter million ($254k) since then after gamers spent $8.7 million on the club’s 5 slots, winning back $7.9 million.
No Revenue, No Slot Machines
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Bridges of Poplar Creek Country Club in Hoffman Estates saw no reprieve after installing slot machines in June 2014. The course only pulled $5,946 in revenue from video gambling, doing little to suffuse the club’s $65,000 in losses last year.
According to the park district’s Director of Golf, Brian Bechtold, Gold Rush Amusements (GRA), which operates the slots at the Hoffman Estate’s site, has threatened to remove the machines if things don’t turn around soon.
GRA Compliance Director Glenn Leonard confirmed, “If they are successful, we will be successful, and we won’t have to remove the machines.”
Illinois Golf Clubs with Slots
The Illinois golf clubs that currently offer video gambling on slot machines include courses in Chicago’s Blue Island, Countryside, Elk Grove Village, Glenwood, Hoffman Estates, Joliet, New Lenox, North Chicago and Worth. Clubs outside the Chicago area are found in Cahokia, Moweaqua, Streator and Winnebago County.