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Bars shrug at video gambling machines

Most Evanston bar and restaurant owners interviewed say they’re not interested in installing electronic gambling machines.

The state legislature recently voted to legalize the machines in restaurants, bars and social clubs as a way to pay for a $31 billion capital improvement bill.

Establishments get 35 percent of the profit turned by the machines — that is, the amount people lose to the machines.

But the idea isn’t ringing bells among owners.

Jim Hurley, owner and manager of Bat 17 at 1709 Benson Ave., said he is not against the machines or gambling, but he doesn’t intend to buy machines for his own bar.

“It’s not something I feel would be good for my place,” he said.

“It’s not our cup of tea,” said Mike Hoyland, manager of Prairie Moon, 1502 Sherman Ave.

Celtic Knot co-owner Liz Breslin said the owners of the restaurant, 626 Church St., have not discussed it.

“First thought: probably wouldn’t be something we would have,” she said.

Bill Gilmore, owner of Bill’s Blues, 1029 Davis St., said he’s going to wait until he gets feedback from other bar owners before before he makes a decision.

“Obviously, if it’s something that enhances my revenue, I would have to seriously consider it,” Gilmore said. “I need all the revenue I can get.”

Gilmore said the city council should reserve a business owner’s option of having the machines or not.

The state law allows local governments, which would get 5 percent of the machines’ profits, to ban the machines.

Several aldermen say they’re opposed to the machines but the City Council so far has made no move to ban them.

The machines also could be banned by a referendum vote — but getting that measure on the ballot would require petitions signed by 25 percent of the city’s registered voters.

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