By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — A recent report tied to liquor licenses that confused a Rockford alderman Monday was not one showing what the city takes in from its more than 450 video gambling machines.
Officials say a report issued to aldermen during Monday’s committee meetings showed that the city received about $10,000 in the last two quarters of 2017 from nearly three dozen new conditional liquor licenses.
Seeking clarification about the amount and whether the city should have received more than $10,000 from 35 machines, Alderman Frank Beach suggested there was an error in the report.
“That’s the only thing the city got was $10,000?” Beach, who represents the 10th Ward, said. “That doesn’t make any sense at all, and I really want to see what the numbers are.”
Beach said he expected revenue to be “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” a comment that became the subject of a 23 WIFR report. The clip indicated the Liquor and Tobacco Advisory Board promised to investigate and provide council with overall numbers next week.
Instead, the city responded Tuesday, clarifying the figures Beach questioned. But not before home rule opponents attempted to use the now-updated media report to further its claim that officials are hiding the city’s true figures.
“Somebody’s cookin’ the books,” one person commented about the report on an anti-home rule Facebook page.
Another user accused officials of “playing fast a(nd) loose with the facts.”
However, according to terms of the conditional liquor licenses in question, 50 percent of revenue must come from food, alcohol and the sale of general merchandise. It cannot all come from video gaming machines.
“The report was NOT a full report on overall City revenue from video gaming,” City of Rockford Strategic Communications Manager Laura Maher said in a statement.
Data in the full report shows the city took in $1.5 million last year from 459 gaming machines in 95 establishments, Maher reported. Those funds are applied to payments on leased vehicles. The city’s general fund covers the difference between the total payments due and the gaming revenue received. Last year, lease payments totaled about $3.4 million.
Mathematically, that means $1.5 million was paid with video gaming revenue and $1.9 million was paid by the general fund, numbers readily available from the city upon request.
What Rockford takes in from gambling machines is also listed in the Illinois Gaming Board’s Monthly Video Gaming Revenue Reports. Everything from the number of machines, dollars gamed and how they’re doled is reported by the state. Under Illinois’ gaming system, machine owners, the state and municipalities share gaming revenue. R.