Our View: Algonquin should not allow gaming

Algonquin is poised to become the next McHenry County community that allows video gambling.

The village’s board is scheduled to vote to on an ordinance that would allow it, requiring video gaming terminals 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.

Although a straw poll indicated five of the seven Algonquin trustees support the ordinance, we urge them to reconsider.

The Illinois General Assembly approved video gaming in bars and restaurants in 2009 as a way to fund road, bridge and infrastructure work around the state. It took until October for the state to put oversight procedures in place and the machines to become active.

Counties and municipalities were allowed to opt out, and Cary, Crystal Lake and Lakewood have done so. The McHenry County Board has banned video gaming in unincorporated areas. But several local towns, including Harvard, Huntley, Lake in the Hills and McHenry, have opted in.

And that’s one reason why some of Algonquin’s taverns and restaurants want it too, for fear of losing customers to neighboring communities where it is allowed.

The state allows for machines to have a maximum bet of $2, with maximum payouts of $500. After winnings are paid, the state gets 25 percent of the take, municipalities 5 percent, and the remaining 70 percent is split between owners of the local establishments and owners of the gaming machines.

In Fox Lake, where there are 23 machines at five locations, there was a net terminal income of $75,411, according to the Illinois Gaming Board’s monthly report on video gaming for February. Of that, $18,853 went to the state and $3,771 went to the municipality.

The three machines in Fox River Grove had a net terminal income of $15,958, with $3,990 due to the state and $798 to the municipality, according to the February report.

In Huntley, the four machines had a net terminal income of $14,938, of which $3,734 went to the state and $747 went to the village, according to the February report.

The five machines in Lake in the Hills had a net terminal income of $20,007, of which $5,002 went to the state and $1,000 to the village, according to the February report.

And in McHenry, the 36 machines at nine locations had a net terminal income of $122,259. Of that, $30,565 went to the state and the city received $6,113, according to the February report.

We know revenue is hard to come by these days, what with higher taxes and the state’s dire financial situation.

But gambling is addictive. People often lose more than their families can afford. And the returns from gambling are not likely to significantly help either the business or the municipality.

The costs outweigh the benefits, and we urge Algonquin to not allow video gaming into its community.

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