* A big reason for legalizing video poker is that it takes the illegal video poker rackets out of play. It’s now a felony to possess poker machines that pay out, and as a consequence, the licenses are declining…
Check a dozen bars at random in Springfield and you’ll find more ashtrays, smoking ban notwithstanding, than video poker machines or any of the other so-called gray machines that once were as ubiquitous as beer on St. Patrick’s Day.
“They’re all gone,” says Mike Walton, a board member of American Legion Post 32 who acknowledges that the establishment on Sangamon Avenue was one of scores in Springfield that once offered video gambling without oversight from state gaming regulators.
Possession of so-called gray machines became a felony in mid-August, but numbers from the state Department of Revenue and the Springfield city clerk’s office show the decline began three years ago.
The number of amusement-device licenses issued in Springfield has dropped from more than 1,000 in 2010 to 815 this year, with those figures also including jukeboxes, video games such as Golden Tee and other gizmos that aren’t used for gambling. The state Department of Revenue issued more than 64,800 amusement-device licenses in 2010 and 62,200 in 2011. Fewer than 46,000 licenses have been issued for the current licensing year that began Aug. 1.
Sue Hofer, spokesman for the state Department of Revenue, says the state is still issuing licenses for “simulated gaming” devices that are perfectly legal so long as no jackpots are paid.
“It is up to the taxpayer to know whether their machines are in compliance with the new gaming law,” Hofer wrote in an email. “A number of taxpayers have indicated they have been getting rid of their simulated gaming machines over the past three years in anticipation of video gaming going online. This could be a potential cause of the decline in the number of decals issued.”
The next logical step would be to prevent DoR from issuing any license for any “simulated gaming device” at all. Nobody ever “simulates” gambling on those machines.