At night, lights can be seen flashing on two of the five gaming machines offered to customers at the bar Mary’s Place in downtown Rockford.
“I think it’s great, I think the city needs that,” said Becky Haddad, owner of Mary’s Place. “I mean anything that you can do to better the place that you live, why is it a bad thing?,” she added. Haddad has had gaming machines installed at her bar since the state legalized video gaming in 2012. She says the games have drawn in new customers. She also believes its helped other businesses immensely over the years.
“I personally believe that it saves a lot of people from going out of business,” she said. It’s certainly been good business for the city of Rockford. The Forest City raked in about 1.5 million dollars last year from video gaming.
“The dollars received from gaming go for vehicles, and that is for vehicle replacement through purchase and or lease,” said Rockford City Administrator Todd Cagnoni. Those vehicles include new police cars or city buses. Still, not all businesses are onboard with video gaming in their establishments. “The gist of it is, it takes away from all the hard work that the chef’s, the servers, the bartenders are putting in to get you, you know a great experience,” said Patrick Alberto, executive chef at Octane
He’s been the head chef at the restaurant on Main St. for over 10 years. He says gaming machines take away from the character of local businesses. “It takes away the personality of each business,” he said.”I don’t want that to happen, I don’t want to see a whole lot of that downtown,” he added.
There are 95 establishments within the city of Rockford that have machines, nearly 460 machines are spread among them. Haddad thinks regardless of opinion on gaming, it’s helping to bring revenue into the area.”The state’s also getting money and so is the city, so I don’t understand why they would care where it came from,” she said.
The city of Rockford says in order for businesses to keep their gaming licenses, 50% of their revenue has to come from food, liquor, and general merchandise sales.