Algonquin bets placed on hold

ALGONQUIN – Businesses that have asked the village to allow video gambling are frustrated about a six-month trial period the village is undertaking to see how other communities handle video gaming.

Nero’s Pizza & Pub owner Ken Fishleigh, who spoke for a handful of businesses present at last week’s Village Board meeting, said bars and restaurants want trustees to establish rules for video gambling sooner rather than later.

“Many of these places have applied for permits to have the gaming machines. Now it’s up and running with the state,” Fishleigh said. “We’re concerned we’re going to get left out. We haven’t heard anything from the village in regards to what are we doing as far as setting up the conditions.”

Village President John Schmitt said the Village Board has agreed to a six-month waiting period so staff can consult with other communities.

“Six months from now, we’ll have a pretty good idea of what we need to put together with the way of rules and regulations to allow you to get those licenses or not,” Schmitt said. “This board has to make a decision whether we want them in our village, and we’re going to do what we think is due diligence, and make sure the other communities don’t have any problems. I laud them for having the guts to do it without any knowledge of what the feedback might be.”

In August, the Village Board directed staff to put together an ordinance that, if passed, would allow gambling in restaurants and bars, which is allowed in Marengo, Huntley, Johnsburg, Lake in the Hills and McHenry. Video gambling went live this month.

At a subsequent meeting, the Village Board agreed to a six-month waiting period.

“All these programs that are rolling out right now, we’re going to be the last one,” Fishleigh said. “Everybody around us is going to have their games, and they’re going to have people going to their places.”

Local governments have the option of allowing video gambling within their municipalities as part of the state’s $31 billion capital plan. People would be able to gamble only $2 at a time and could win up to $500.

Schmitt said the Village Board would love the extra revenue that could come in, “however it’s incumbent on us to make sure we’re doing the right thing for our village.”

“Bringing gambling into our community is something that is not just an everyday thing for us,” he said.

Fishleigh maintained that not allowing video gambling will hurt businesses and could mean less revenue in the long run for the village government.

“We’re going to give older people an opportunity to sit at a bar and sit at a restaurant with liquor, and enjoy themselves for the afternoon,” Fishleigh said. “We’re still only going to be entertaining the people in the village of Algonquin. If you want them to go some place else, it’s on your shoulders.”

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