ALGONQUIN – Village Board members are poised to vote on an ordinance next week that, if approved, would allow video gambling in town.
In a straw poll of board members, five Algonquin trustees – Jerry Glogowski, Jim Steigert, Robert Smith, John Spella and Debby Sosine – said they are in favor of allowing video gambling.
Village President John Schmitt and Trustee Brian Dianis said they are against it.
Some of the village’s taverns and restaurants asked the village to allow video gaming for fear they would lose customers to neighboring communities where it is allowed, such as Lake in the Hills, Huntley and Fox River Grove. Crystal Lake, Cary and Lakewood have rejected video gaming.
Village Board members had waited to make a decision on whether to allow video gambling to see how the topic was handled in other municipalities.
Randy Errington, who owns a building downtown with a tenant who wants to have video gaming, said he is afraid he might lose that tenant without the gaming machines.
“I want to keep the tenant there I’ve had for 10 years for at least five more years,” Errington said.
Trustee Smith said allowing video gambling will give small business an opportunity to compete.
“A boarded-up business says a lot more about a community than whether or not we have a few gambling machines tucked away,” Smith said.
Dianis said bars and restaurants aren’t the only businesses in town struggling.
“Why shouldn’t a nail salon have video gaming as well?” Dianis said. “I’m concerned this is just a foot-in-the-door kind of thing.”
Even though Spella supports allowing video gambling, he said businesses shouldn’t look to it as a way to stay open but rather as a way to supplement their income.
“For those businesses that think they will bank on this to stay open, they really need to re-evaluate their business plan,” Spella said.
Schmitt said he doesn’t want the image of video gambling in the village.
“The quality shopping, the quality of residents and the quality of our community cannot be served positively with immediately, 10 businesses in town with four or five machines each,” Schmitt said. “I think the businesses are better served by a clientele throughout the community, throughout the region that says ‘I want to go to Algonquin because it’s a classy place to be.’ .... I personally think we’re making a mistake.”
Under the proposed ordinance, video gaming terminals have to be licensed on an annual basis per machine. The village is proposing a $500 annual license fee per terminal or device, and a $1,000 annual license fee for each terminal operator that supplies video gambling machines within the village.
The state allows a maximum of five terminals per establishment.
Only people who are 21 or older could play the machines and the area where machines are located has to be monitored by someone at least 21 years old. There would have to be a camera surveillance system in the gaming area, and a physical partition to ensure no one under 21 is in the gaming area.
Establishments also would have to have a responsible gaming policy where employees are trained, among other things.
Penalties for establishments violating video gambling rules would be handled by the liquor commission. The minimum fine would be $1,000.
The village also plans to tie video gaming to the establishment’s liquor license, which could be suspended or revoked if there is a violation.
“Establishments need to understand, they don’t need to go by just the outline of the law, they need to make sure they’re covering their butts all the way,” Schmitt said.
Local governments have had the choice to ban or allow video gaming since 2009, when the Illinois Legislature legalized it to help pay for a $31 billion infrastructure plan. Video gambling finally went live in October.
Schmitt said that any revenue the village receives should go toward recreation funds.
“If these guys are going to get some money out of this, I think … kids should too,” Schmitt said.