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Businesses urging East Dundee to overturn ban on video gaming

Video poker gambling machine. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

Video poker gambling machine. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 27, 2012 6:13AM

EAST DUNDEE — Some East Dundee business owners came before the village board Monday night to make a last-ditch-plea to overturn the village’s ban on video gambling.

The issue is to go to a vote at the first regular board meeting in October.

“We passed the word on to the tavern owners in the village and said, ‘If you have any final words on the matter, tonight’s the night to do it,’ ” said Robert Skurla, East Dundee village administrator, during the board’s committee of the whole meeting.

In an advisory referendum on Feb. 2, 2010, the majority of voters in East Dundee voted to prohibit video gambling — 239-180. The village board listened to its constituents and passed an ordinance forbidding the practice within the town limits.

But several of the village’s business owners said allowing video gaming would put East Dundee on a level playing field with local towns such as Carpentersville, Gilberts, Hampshire, Huntley, Pingree Grove and South Elgin that already have legalized video gambling in their communities.

State legislation passed in 2009 allows certain establishments to operate video poker machines and similar electronic games of chance — with local governmental approval. The Illinois Video Gaming Act limits machines to bars and restaurants with a valid liquor license, truck stops, and fraternal or veteran organizations.

The state currently is testing the devices in some northern Illinois establishments, and final approval for the communities where they will be allowed is expected later this year.

Qualifying businesses will be able to operate no more than five machines each and must put them in a spot inaccessible to patrons under 21. They also must be restricted from outside view.

The act calls for the gaming vendor and the host establishment to each get 35 percent of each machine’s profits, with the state getting 25 percent and the host municipality 5 percent.

“This is really important to the businesses in town,” said Frank Gumma, who runs his family’s business, Ideal Amusements, which has been located in East Dundee for seven years. “If we don’t vote it in, it’s almost like gambling. Some of the bars will survive. Some won’t. That’s not a bet I want to make.”

Gumma said it’s rare for the state to give businesses an opportunity to make money.

“Usually, it’s a tax or something we have to pay,” he said. “Here they are giving us the opportunity to make a few dollars and survive.”

Richard Calendo, owner of Calendo’s Corner, agreed.

“We have an opportunity, and we need it as small business people,” he said. “If we don’t have it, they’ll go elsewhere. We need your help.”

If board members do not agree to overturn the ban, the earliest this issue could again be on the ballot would be in April 2013.

But Calendo is urging the village not to delay the issue nearly a year.

“(Video gambling will) help us sustain business and help us small guys survive in this environment we’re fighting right now,” he said.

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