McHenry authorizes video gaming, 5-1

McHENRY – Businesses will decide whether to offer video gaming to patrons.

By a 5-1 vote Monday night, the McHenry City Council approved an amendment allowing video gaming at its liquor-licensed establishments.

Alderman Andy Glab voted no and Alderman Victor Santi abstained.

The amendment to Chapter 9 of the municipal code authorizes the video gaming terminals and outlines requirements for an annual license from the city.

Business owners, video-gaming terminal operators and representatives of local veterans’ organizations spoke in support of video gaming. Three people urged the council not to allow it.

Resident Joyce Story asked whether the city had done an impact study on the effect of video gaming.

“Until we have an impact study, we would be remiss to vote on something that could be very detrimental for our children, for our community, for those who can least afford it,” she said.

Kathy Gilroy of Villa Park said video-gaming machines are “even more harmful than casinos,” and described them as the “crack cocaine of gambling addiction.”

“It’s the most addictive form of gambling available today,” she said.

But video gaming proponents, including those from local veterans organizations and bar owners, say revenue from the terminals will benefit the city overall, especially during these challenging economic times.

Doug Strain, owner of the Gambler, 1232 N. Green St., said gambling, whether at a casino or at an offtrack betting site, is available within 20 miles from the city.

“We as a business community would like to keep some of that (revenue) here,” he said.

Three years after the adoption of Illinois’ Video Gaming Act – touted by lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn as a way to pay for a $31 billion capital projects program – The Illinois Gaming Board has indicated that application approvals for video terminal operators, technicians, establishments and third-party contractors could be finalized and ready to “go live” in August.

In recent months, municipalities throughout McHenry County, including Marengo, Huntley, Fox Lake and Spring Grove, have adopted ordinances permitting video gaming machines. Crystal Lake officials unanimously votd against it, and Woodstock’s City Council discussed it and dropped it from consideration for a vote, effectively banning it.

Alderman Santi said he wished the process would have allowed for more public input from residents.

But Alderwoman Geri Condon said the council ought to give “businesses and the customers, who are, more often than not, local citizens, the respect to make responsible choices on their own.”

Condon, in response to the argument about whether video gaming would only enable gambling addiction, said government cannot “dictate vices” and that those with addictions “need to take ownership of their problems.”

“And as a licensed counselor, I don’t say that lightly,” she said.

Alderman Robert Peterson said he personally does not like video gaming, but, “Our town has to be able to be competitive with the other towns in the area.”

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