by: Moj Zvezda, June 8, 2010
As Illinois gears up for the licensing and install of the much anticipated Video Poker Machines (VGT), bar and restaurant owners have also begun the necessary steps preparing their businesses. Bar owners are faced with a choice, do you utilize your current Coin-op service “Coin-op Guy” or do you choose a full service sophisticated gaming company to handle your casino based gaming machines.
Doing some major research on this subject, I have compiled a list of items that every bar and club owner needs to review. There are some major items on this list and it will give you an idea of the size of the responsibility for an operator of the video poker machines here in Illinois.
So let’s dive right in and really look at each area of services and operation of this Illinois gaming system. There is heavy responsibility for Operators of a video poker machine in regards to servicing, protection, reporting and distribution of funds. So here is what needs to be discussed:
Note: Obvious generalizations about the coin-operator industry apply, suffice to say, be sure to ask the tough questions that will protect your business.”
Operator Must Have a Gaming License
Every operator knows they need an operators gaming license, and they are not yet available. They are projecting sometime late summer or early fall. [The latest update is now for the summer of 2011.] This license will allow the operator to not only purchase the machine for your establishment, but to also install, service, collect and distribute payments.
Since there is a separate license and not all coin-ops or applications will receive a license to operate video poker machines, current contracts do not apply. If a coin-op service company tries to sling you a story that its already covered in your contract, he is lying and misrepresenting his services. No one may sign an Illinois Video Poker operations agreement until they are licensed.
The Operator must not have a criminal background
Anyone applying for a license must not have any type of criminal background. If you know that your current coin-op guy has a criminal background, start searching for another potential operator as they may not be licensed. This rule goes the same for the establishments owner.
Repairing & Servicing the Video Poker Terminals
Each Operator must have a qualified Video Poker Terminal technician on staff at all times. That individual must also have a non-criminal background and must be trained to service and repair the approved video gaming machines in Illinois. The technician must also be license by the State to service the machines in Illinois. All VGTs will be connected directly to a central network and monitored in real-time by the Illinois Gaming Board. As such the State will effectively have an ongoing audit of how much money is going into and out of each machine. VGTs are not juke boxes. They are not pool tables. And the VGT operator is not simply collecting quarters. Highly played VGTs will hold thousands of dollars at a time and every penny most be collected, accounted for, audited, divided and distributed with percise regularity to the state and the bar owner accordingly. If your Coin Op is not thoroughly organized, and efficient, he will put your games and your income at risk.
Routing, Transportation and Collection of Video Poker Machine Money
The machines themselves are highly sophisticated, they are not lock, key and cash disbursement. Each machine has a time stamped cash box, which slides out upon collection and a new box is then placed into the poker machine. That cash box is then escorted by security guards and the trained operators technician to the armored truck, supplied by the operator.
The routing of the trucks and the security of the personnel is a large concern and must be handled in a very professional, systematic process. Can the operator handle the staffing, the routing and security? Again, this is another reason that an experienced gaming company might be the right choice for your location.
The Counting of Funds Collected
How will the funds be counted? Once the armored trucks leave the hosts establishment they will then arrive at the operators facility and counting rooms. These counting rooms check and count each box collected. The operator then matches the collection to the State of Illinois reports and disburses all payments. These payments include reporting and paying all State of Illinois Gaming taxes and disbursement of the hosts share into their designated account.
Here is the most serious part to the whole operation; if the operator misses one payment on the taxes to the State, they will only receive one warning. Upon the second missed payment, the Operators gaming license is pulled and all installed machines are shut down.
The real problem begins when your current profiting video poker machines are now shut down until you can find another operator, remove the current machines and install new terminals. The new terminals must be re-approved by the State of Illinois to open up gaming to the public. This issue, cause by your operator not following the States guidelines, will place your establishment at a one or two month minimum loss. Again, ask yourself this question, do I use the small coin-op servicing company that handles pool tables and dart boards, or do you call a professional casino gaming company?
Security of the Host Establishment and Employees
Another large concern for the bar or restaurant owner is security. Will the operator supply both a technician and security guard during any collection or repair of your machines. For the safety of both the employees and establishment, make sure these precautions are being handled by your supplier. Another great reason to use a large casino based company, as they have these services already in place and they will know the routine.
Looking at the following list of responsibilities for an operator, there is more to the operations in the kitchen than the dining room. Meaning, don’t have the guy that installs your ovens cook your food! Make sure to choose an operator that has the experience needed to make this a very profitable business for your establishment.
This new business is an institutionalized business with the state of Illinois, using a casino based company that is sophisticated in the casino gaming industry is a smarter route to take. This is not a let down on the coin-op industry, nor do you have to stop doing business with a coin-op service company. I recommend the use of an operator that has experience in the casino gaming field, has overseen or managed a casino property and has the security to protect your business and its employees (underlines added).