It was a bright spot in an otherwise lackluster economic forecast for slot manufacturers. Some 35,000 video lottery machines expected to go on line in Illinois. It was welcome news that slot machine makers were counting on to boost their earnings. But in January, an Illinois appellate court ruled in January that a 2009 $31 billion capital construction bill, in which the Video Gaming Act was included, was unconstitutional because it violates the state’s single-subject rule. That rule prohibits lawmakers from bundling unrelated bills together in a single vote.

The bill would have legalized video lottery terminals at bars, taverns, restaurants, truck stops, fraternal organizations and veterans halls. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed the original omnibus bill, is not standing still. The attorney general has filed an emergency motion to stay the ruling while it is appealed to a higher court. But the appeals process could delay shipments by slot machine manufacturers well into next year.

If the appellate court’s ruling is upheld, Illinois legislators could pass new legislation to legalize the gaming machines.

Bill Lerner of the Las Vegas-based gaming advisory firm Union Gaming, indicated the gaming act would have added some 30,000 video gambling machines in Illinois. He has said Illinois was likely to have accounted for nearly 40 percent of all North American slot machine shipments from the second half of 2011 until the end of 2012.

“This expansion opportunity was not unimportant to the gaming equipment suppliers,” Lerner wrote in a note to investors.

SUBHED: Strong signals

Who would have thought several years ago that the Nevada gaming industry’s statewide loss of $3.4 billion in fiscal 2010 from total revenue of $20.8 billion – and the second straight year of losses on the Las Vegas Strip – would have been cause for optimism? Yet it is.

That’s because the numbers were quite an improvement over fiscal 2009, when the loss was $6.7 billion on total revenue of $22 billion.

Las Vegas Strip casinos lost $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2010, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reports. It was the first time there have been two consecutive years of losses, but 2010’s was an improvement over 2009’s. Calculated as gaming, room and restaurant revenues minus expenses, but prior to deducting federal income taxes and extraordinary expenses, the loss in 2009 was $4.1 billion.

The Gaming Control Board’s Nevada Gaming Abstract shows statewide there were 256 casinos that grossed $1 million or more in gaming revenue.

Total revenue collected on the Las Vegas Strip reached $18.2 billion last year, down 5 percent from 2009. Total gaming revenue was $8.4 billion, down 5.3 percent.

The 39 casinos on the Strip with revenues in excess of $1 million reported room revenue was down 7.8 percent with occupancy falling from 89.5 percent to 88.4 percent. The average room rate year-over-year dropped to $112 from $124.

While billion dollar losses aren’t the kind of news Nevada casinos were hoping for, it really is good news. It’s a step in the right direction and let’s hope it continues.