CRYSTAL LAKE – The City Council tightened its fledgling video gambling ordinance to reflect the wishes of members that an actual wall or partition separate the machines from other business patrons.
Council members voted Tuesday evening, 4-3, to amend the ordinance to specify that a physical barrier separate the machines from the view of other customers, regardless if the establishment only is accessible to customers 21 years or older. The former language only required the machines to be in a segregated area not accessible to people younger than 21. The area must be within the view at all times of an employee 21 or older.
The amendment codifies the wishes of city council members who have reviewed and approved six licenses on a case-by-case basis since they lifted the city’s video gambling ban earlier this year. The desire for stronger language came in the wake of a request for a permit by the owner of Moe B. Dick’s North Shore Pub, who wanted the separation requirement waived given the small size of her establishment. The bar will be the seventh to operate the machines once it meets city requirements.
Council member Ellen Brady voted no, stating that the council already had the control needed.
“I suggest that we just leave it alone, and see how it plays out, and we always have the ability to impose that wall if we so choose,” she said.
But Mayor Aaron Shepley said that giving business owners who want licenses more information as to the city’s expectations makes things easier for both parties.
“This more clearly articulates how we are going to restrict them, and I think that whenever you provide certainty, transparency and information to people who want to avail themselves of the protections and the privileges that are afforded by your ordinances, more is always better, because you’re giving them greater clarity,” Shepley said.
Local businesses that alleged that Crystal Lake’s ban put them at a competitive disadvantage worked with the city to craft a compromise ordinance stricter than those of other local governments.
The city’s ordinance allows local establishments that serve liquor on the premises to have up to three machines. Establishments cannot have exterior signage advertising video gambling, and neither interior signs nor the machines themselves can be visible from the outside. The city charges two annual fees totaling $1,100, plus a $500 fee per machine, and applicants also must sign an agreement promising not to go to court to get the city’s ordinance softened. Companies that provide and service the machines likewise must pay a $1,000 annual fee to do business in the city.
Illinois legalized video gambling in 2009 to help generate revenue to pay off the bonds for a $31 billion capital plan, although the machines didn’t start appearing in local establishments until late 2012. The state gets 30 percent of the proceeds, 5 percent of which goes to the city. The remaining 70 percent of the profit is split between the machine owner and each establishment.
Shepley, and members Ralph Dawson, Haig Haleblian and Brett Hopkins voted to amend the ordinance, while members Cameron Hubbard and Cathy Ferguson joined Brady in voting no.