- Associated Press - Friday, June 20, 2014

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (AP) - The long-term drop in the numbers of veterans who belong to groups such as the American Legion has left many posts short of money, but some in Illinois think they’ve found a solution.

Many such groups that have added video-gambling machines to their clubs say the money has transformed them from money-losers to money-makers that can pay their bills.

Bill Geary, the corporate secretary of American Legion Post 911 in the Chicago suburb of Wauconda, said the addition of video gambling machines in February 2013 has turned the group’s finances around, the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights reported (http://bit.ly/1plXKhw ).

“It was a salvation,” Geary said. “We were running in the red for five years or so because of the high price of utilities and everything else. Now, we’re running in the black again, so we’re good.”

The post now takes in nearly $15,000 a month, he said. The money helped pay for a new roof and now the club plans to repave its parking lot, remodel its bathrooms and make other improvements.

Some clubs, though, say the wait to get the machines can be lengthy.

Mike Stojak, of American Legion Post 673 in Huntley, said the club had to wait two years before it finally got its machines in February. He said the club has made money, since then.

“There are so many legion posts with bars and restaurants around the area that are struggling to make ends meet,” Stojak said. “The video gaming, that’s one thing that is going to help us keep our doors open.”

But some veterans point out that the larger problem of declining membership remains.

What the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other veterans groups needs are younger members, said Chuck Slack, of the VFW post in Carpentersville. The Korean War veteran is 79.

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Information from: Daily Herald, http://www.dailyherald.com

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