No more liquor licenses for Shelbyville gaming

A gamer uses one of the machines at Wilma's in Shelbyville. Stan Polanski photo

Business is so good at Wilma's, a Shelbyville gaming parlor that opened in December, that its owners want to open another location in town.

But they need another liquor license. Since Shelbyville already has 14 liquor licenses, city officials denied the request of the Wilma's owners this week by not taking a vote on it.

However, the city council agreed in a 4-0 vote to create a waiting list and put Wilma's in prime position on it to get a license should another business give theirs up.

"We're a little disappointed," said Jim Finks, a part-owner of Wilma's, after the meeting. "But if we get the list established, we'll be OK with that."

In order to have gaming, an establishment must be able to serve alcohol, according to City Clerk Carrie Jones. City officials say that that state regulation allows cities to control gambling through liquor licenses.

Jones said that of the 14 business that have liquor licenses, just eight have gaming machines. The city has 36 total machines, according to an Illinois Gaming Board report.

Council members say that's enough liquor and gaming machines in Shelbyville.

"In my opinion, we've reached our saturation point for liquor licenses given out for gaming purposes," said Commissioner Brent Fogleman. "I think 36 gaming machines is plenty for our town's size. If you keep giving out licenses, and slicing the pie, then those businesses will make less money."

"I agree with Brent," said Commissioner Bill Shoaff. "I think we have plenty."

"I agree," said Mayor Jeff Johnson. "I don't think we need to expand."

Since Wilma's opened a few months ago, Finks said the business has been doing well.

"We've been encouraged by suppliers to look into opening another place in town," Finks said.

While Wilma's serves alcohol, Finks said the establishment self-imposes a drink limit for customers and hardly relies on alcoholic beverages for profit.

The cut of gaming machine profits is divided between multiple parties, Fogleman said, and the city gets a 5 percent share. The Illinois Gaming Board report said that the city made $4,508 in January.

In that sense, the city has benefited from the development of gambling in recent years. Video gambling was legalized in Illinois in 2012.

"The city isn't flush," said Commissioner Gib Smart. "Any revenue is welcome."

A line still needed to be drawn though, Fogleman said.

"Enough is enough," he said.

Stan Polanski can be reached at stan.polanski@shelbyvilledailyunion.com or 217-774-2161 ext. 1.

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