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Stella’s Place takes a chance on Oakbrook Terrace

Oakbrook Terrace is now home to one of a growing number of cafes with video gaming machines that have opened in the Chicago suburbs since November 2013.

Stella’s Place opened March 19 and is owned by Laredo Hospitality, which has opened about a dozen locations under the names Stella’s Place and Shelby’s in the Chicago suburbs, with another half-dozen locations scheduled to open soon.

“Oakbrook Terrace gives us a little density in the marketplace,” said Charity Johns, vice president of operations. “It’s a café experience for those 21 and older. It’s a place for adults to go.”

Stella’s Place is less than four blocks from the off-track betting business at 17W648 22nd St. But Johns said interest in opening Stella’s place in Oakbrook Terrace had nothing to do with having a nearby business that also offers the opportunity for gambling.

“It’s a much different experience there,” she said.

Bob Patterson of Lombard visited Stella’s Place with his wife April 7.

“We were in the neighborhood and thought we’d check it out,” Patterson said. “I like to be able to go someplace and have a drink or a coffee and be able to play the machines for a while if I want.”

Stella’s Place offers various food for sale along with coffee and a limited menu of alcoholic beverages. Johns estimated about three-quarters of customers play the video gaming machines.

“A lot of our customers do play the machines, but others come in with friends who want to play and don’t play themselves,” Johns said. “People can also play chess and checkers and just relax.”

Stella’s Place has a mid-century modern/’60s theme, said Brian Wilson, area manager.

“This type of concept, of a café with the machines, has been around the west coast for several years,” Wilson said. “We want it to be like a Starbucks, a social gathering place.”

The five video gaming machines at Stella’s Place make for a total of 34 machines at eight businesses in Oakbrook Terrace, said Mayor Tony Ragucci.

“The business brings the city revenue and offers people who don’t want to visit a sports bar or restaurant the opportunity to sit in a quiet and safe atmosphere and enjoy a drink or food while they play video gaming,” Ragucci said. “Any additional revenue they bring to our city budget is a bonus.”

Ragucci said the city charges a fee of $1,000 per year for each video gaming machine. He said an additional $2,500 per machine is anticipated as Oakbrook Terrace’s cut of money put into machines by players.

The Illinois Video Gaming Act, adopted in 2009 by state lawmakers, allows up to five video gaming machines in facilities with valid liquor licenses. The law is written so communities not wanting video gaming must take action prohibit it. If no action is taken, video gambling is allowed by default.

Nearby, Oak Brook and Clarendon Hills have adopted ordinances to prohibit video gaming.

The Illinois Gaming Board imposes a 30 percent tax on each machine’s revenues. One-sixth of the tax collected will be distributed into a new Local Government Video Gaming Distributive Fund. The remainder is placed into the state’s capital fund.

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