Parlor slots now outnumber all Illinois casinos combined

Lucy-2-DG-photos-027Illinois Business Journal photo

Lucy’s Place store manager Pam Schardan greets a slot-playing customer at the Wood River location. She was formerly operator of a coffee shop at the same location before the conversion.
    It was a quiet, wintry afternoon outside the building, but inside Lucy’s Place, the action was hot, with every slot machine occupied and alive with the sounds of winners and losers.
    Yet, this is no casino. A year ago, it was a coffee shop before the operator agreed to sell her equipment to a group of businessmen who leased the building, then took months turning it into a tiny video gaming parlor, lovingly named after one of the owner’s dogs. The coffee shop operator stayed on as a manager.
    The location on Vaughn Road in Wood River houses only the maximum, state-allowed five gaming machines, but it made a nifty $32,246 in net wagering activity between May and the end of November, its first months of operation. The location is among 20 Lucy’s Places in Illinois and in turn they are among the latest in a long list of sites that opened in the state after last year’s launch of video gambling for bars, restaurants, fraternal organizations, truck stops and other sites.

medical-marijuanaphoto courtesy Associated Press

Prepared marijuana is shown for sale in Colorado. Illinois’ own law is now in effect but actual licensing of dispensaries is months away, pending formal rules being drafted by several state agencies.
    Several state agencies are hustling to draw up rules for use of medical marijuana in Illinois, a widely watched process that promises to enlist the public’s input before the program is implemented late in 2014.
    A new website was recently launched to help residents understand and weigh in on the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act, which went into effect Jan. 1. The Illinois departments of Financial and Professional Regulation, Public Health and Agriculture now have 120 days to propose final rules governing the program.
    Bob Morgan, statewide coordinator of the four-year program, said the departments are separately drawing up rules of implementation that will be formally presented by May 1 to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a review arm of the Illinois General Assembly. The latter body will then have a minimum 90 days to approve those rules and put the governance into effect.

    Tom Williams is not blowing smoke when he talks about the growing popularity of vapor lounging. There is, after all, no smoke to blow.
    The proprietor of Cloud 9 Vapor Lounge at 223 East Center Drive in Alton, feels he’s on the ground floor of a burgeoning industry as smokers nationwide seek new ways to quit tobacco. He’s also on the cusp of controversy.
    “These have been on the West Coast since about 2008. There’s a store on every corner in California,” he said, using a bit of hyperbole to describe the rapid growth of the business.
    “The Midwest is always a couple of years behind,” he added.
    The area, though, is catching up. Vapor lounging is popping up across Metro East and similar-technique products are being sold at many local retailers, including Wal-Mart. The difference with lounges, Williams said, is a personalized approach they offer to helping customers quit smoking.
    At the center of it all, of course, is the electronic cigarette, a controversial, penlike device that consists of a battery and a cartridge filled with various flavors of nicotine juice, referred to as e-liquid or e-juice. The battery heats the juice, which releases liquid vapors that are inhaled, giving users the sensation of smoking without the carcinogenic effect of traditional smoking. Some are designed to look like a real cigarette; others look quite different, more high tech.
    The Food and Drug Administration has not approved the e-cigarette as a smoking-cessation device, but to suggest it doesn’t work is not true, Williams contends.
    “The success (in response) is fairly immediate, My business has been open (three) months now. People go home and come back the next day, telling me they notice a difference. I pride ourselves on our knowledge. We help people understand the process and understand addiction. All six of our employees are ones who quit smoking by using these products.”


Simmons Firm Donation to Madison County Food Pantries Feeds Hundreds through Holiday Season

Employee Foundation Drive Collects More than 38,000 pounds in donations

    More than 38,000 pounds of food and personal hygiene items were delivered by employees at the Simmons Law Firm to five Madison County area pantries this past holiday season. Employees raised the food during the 7th Annual Simmons Employee Foundation Food Drive.