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Elgin City Council set to discuss reconsidering video gambling ban

A patrplays one video gaming machines Wednesday Booker's Bar   Grill South Elgin.  November 21 2012 | Michael

A patron plays one of the video gaming machines Wednesday at Booker's Bar & Grill in South Elgin. November 21, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 22, 2013 6:13AM

ELGIN — The city council is set to hear on Wednesday night from the owners and operators of some local establishments that would like the city to reconsider its current stance against allowing them to offer video gaming.

With the pieces all finally in place for getting the program off the ground, in late summer Illinois began enactment of the Video Gaming Act, which state legislators approved in 2009 as a way to help pay for a $32 billion capital improvement program.

The law allows establishments where alcohol is served for consumption (as opposed to carry-out), plus licensed fraternal and veterans establishments and truck stops to have video gambling. Payouts are capped at $500 on any one play, and the number of terminals at any one place is limited to five. It also allows municipalities to opt out and ban the devices.

In July, the Elgin City Council unanimously voted to opt out of allowing video gaming.

However, Councilman John Prigge posted on his Facebook page Dec. 5 a message about asking to have the video gaming issue included as a topic of discussion on the Jan. 23 agenda.

“There is significant data that has come out since we voted against it that I believe needs discussion,” Prigge wrote.

In July, before voting against allowing video gaming, Prigge said that anything that might harm the Grand Victoria Casino would be a bad thing. He noted the casino had told the city that other video gaming in town would cut into its take.

Prigge did not respond to a Courier-News request as to what the new information might be.

Others have it

What is known is that a majority of the towns near Elgin are allowing video gaming. Play has just begun at a handful places in those towns, as the state’s approval process involves extensive background checks.

Those that have approved video gambling include Bartlett, Carpentersville, East Dundee, Gilberts, Hampshire, Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, Huntley, Lake in the Hills, Pingree Grove, South Elgin, and unincorporated Kane County.

Algonquin, Campton Hills, St. Charles, Streamwood and Wayne have opted out of allowing it. West Dundee is out for now, but trustees are set to reconsider their position in February.

The casino towns of Aurora and Joliet also allow video gaming, while Des Plaines — which has the state’s newest and busiest casino — does not allow it at other establishments.

According to an Illinois Gaming Board report, in December, $91,811,086 was bet across the state at 2,293 terminals, which paid out $84,816,493 to players. That meant a collective net of $6,994,594, with the state’s share $1,748,622 and municipalities taking in a collective $349,724.

The state gets 25 percent and local municipalities 5 percent of net income after winnings are paid. The other 70 percent is split by the business owners and the companies that operate the machines.

Business plea

What’s also known is that from seven to 12 people from Elgin service clubs and bars that could benefit from allowing video gaming have been meeting as a group to plead their case to each council member on an individual basis.

Councilmen Bob Gilliam, Rich Dunne and Tish Powell and Mayor David Kaptain said the message from the groups has been that they need the gaming to remain competitive with places in other nearby towns where gaming is allowed, especially as economic times remain tight.

While they might want to change their minds to help out local businesses, council members have said they have further questions.

Those include how the city might use its take of the money, how much of the impacted business community is in favor of the gaming, and when the council might be able to re-vote on the matter.

Dunne and Prigge said the city’s legal department is looking into whether a new session of the council means the recent change of year or if the matter would have to wait until after new council members are seated after the April election.

Kaptain said he wants more solid information about how the gaming would help the businesses beyond just their take of the gambling revenue and how it would impact the local economy. He also would want to make sure that gaming licenses are linked to liquor licenses, where major violations of either can result in the loss of both. And he wants to wait and see if the state takes pending legislation that would let towns limit the gaming to service clubs before taking any re-vote.

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