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Huntley sees slow gaming response from businesses

HUNTLEY – Only one liquor license holder in Huntley has applied so far to have video gaming machines installed inside its establishment, and village officials have only heard from one other license holder who might apply for the machines.

But Village Manager Dave Johnson is not discouraged by the slow response from businesses, arguing that the village is not in need of the extra money for its budget

The Huntley Legion, 11712 Coral St., is the only liquor license holder waiting to hear from the state about operating the terminals. The village could receive $112,500 annually if all 10 liquor license holders apply to have the accessible gambling machines.

“I think, ultimately, from a staff perspective, we certainly weren’t looking to balance our budget or anything off this revenue coming in,” Johnson said.

On June 14, the Village Board voted 5-1 to lift a prohibition on video gaming and to allow liquor license holders such as bars, restaurants and veteran clubs to have patrons risk their money on gaming machines located inside their businesses.

The village isn’t dependent on the new revenue generated from the machines, after the board approved a balanced budget last winter that included a flat property tax rate from 2011.

Village staff, rather, initially moved on the idea as a courtesy to business owners, who now have the option to apply for the machines and collect the money generated off of the terminals, Johnson said.

State lawmakers legalized video gaming in 2009 to pay for a $31 billion infrastructure plan. The money from the machines is split primarily between the business and terminal operator.

The state collects 30 percent, and local governments receive 5 percent of that portion.

With electronic gambling approved, Johnson said the village could use the extra money for local capital projects, such as street scape improvements. But Johnson cautioned that officials won’t seriously discuss how to use the money until the end of the year.

Huntley now joins local areas such as Marengo, Lake in the Hills, Spring Grove and Fox Lake to allow for video gaming, while more than 150 communities in Illinois, including Crystal Lake and Cary, have banned it.

But the Huntley board’s approval of gaming did not happen quietly. Trustee Harry Leopold, who voted “no” on the proposal, argued that the public did not have enough time to weigh in on the merits of accessible gambling.

He said he had only a week to research the issue before the vote. He even informally polled 110 residents about video gaming, and only 11 were in support of it, Leopold said.

“I recognize the need to be concerned about our local business(es) and help them where we can, but in this case, the special needs of a small minority of businesses ... are outweighed by the interests of the general residency,” Leopold told the board.

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