Controversy Over ‘Grandma Casinos’ in Kane County

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Storefront video-gaming casinos targeted to women in the 55 to 60 age group are generating some controversy, according to an article published Monday in the The Courier-News.

The state of Illinois and the municipalities that host video gaming parlors knew that they would be looking at a can of worms when it came to regulating video gambling establishments, and the wriggling mass hasn’t gotten any easier to sort out with the recent addition of gambling cafes — sometimes referred to as “grandma casinos” because they cater to a specific demographic.

The two most-often named in news articles are Dotty’s Cafe and Stella’s Place.

According to the Courier-News article, 139 gambling cafes are seeking approval in a 50-mile radius of Elgin.

That’s causing some concern by local government leaders who are charged with enforcing state regulations as well as by owners and operators of Elgin’s Grand Victoria Casino, who say such businesses are likely to start eating into the profits of the state-sanctioned riverboats.

By law, an establishment that serves food and alcohol can host up to five video gambling stations. But instead of popping up at the local mom-and-pop restaurant or tavern, video slot machines are being featured in trendy gaming cafes that typically open in strip malls.

The marketing for the gambling cafes is interesting, including many passages that don’t mention gaming at all.

“Dotty’s welcomes you! We offer a fun, friendly atmosphere in a shopping center near you. Inside our country kitchen you’ll find our ever-changing food menu full of ‘comfort classics’ and fun twists on old favorites. We also invite you to enjoy our gourmet coffee, herbal teas, and our generous selection of beer and wine.”

Shelby’s Place and Stella’s Place are more direct:

“Shelby’s and Stella’s Place are gathering places for adults to enjoy a light meal, beverage and gaming in a warm and welcoming environment,” its website says.

Part of the rub is that the storefront gambling establishments don’t report frequently to the Illinois Gaming Board and sometimes get away with marketing that’s not within the spirit or the letter of the law, a casino spokesperson tells the Courier-News.

In a Daily Herald article, Springfield-based Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems also expressed concerns about the marketing toward women and potential for exploiting people with gambling addictions.


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Editor’s Note: Funding for Kane County Connects’ community outreach initiative comes from a Riverboat Fund grant.


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