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Woodstock OKs video gaming

WOODSTOCK – The City Council unanimously approved video gaming Tuesday night despite concerns about social implications.

The new ordinance allows video gaming terminals in liquor-licensed establishments.

Mayor Brian Sager said he’s concerned about gambling addiction, but it’s not government’s place to tell people how to spend their money.

“Those choices are individual choices, and they need to remain individual choices,” Sager said. “I don’t believe that we can legislate morality.”

The council decided to revisit video gaming, previously discussed in committee, after a push from local business owners.

A handful of representatives from the public on both sides of the issue made their cases to the council Tuesday night.

The Rev. Kurt Gamlin, a pastor at First United Methodist Church in Woodstock, said the addictive nature of video gaming is a concern. He said the machines gradually drain money from families who could use it for groceries or other basic expenses.

“The question we’re trying to figure out is what does the greatest good for the greatest number of people,” Gamlin said. “When we think about gambling in general, that [money] usually funnels into a narrower channel.”

Councilman Mike Turner agreed with Gamlin’s view that video gaming has the ability to cause destruction in a “death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts kind of way.”

“We, from this end of the desk, can’t solve the social ills related to that,” he said. “If I can’t fix the social problem, if it’s not my role to fix it, then the next question I have to ask is, ‘How does it affect the broader community?’ ”

Turner added that video gaming would be “a tougher sell” if surrounding communities hadn’t passed ordinances allowing it. He said banning video gaming now would put Woodstock business owners at a competitive disadvantage.

McHenry, Marengo, Huntley, Spring Grove, Fox River Grove and Richmond are among McHenry County municipalities have OK’d video gaming.

The gaming terminals are banned in Crystal Lake and unincorporated McHenry County.

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