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Elgin to meet with casino over video gaming

GrVictoriCasino Elgin. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 7, 2013 6:35AM

ELGIN — City Manager Sean Stegall is to meet with Grand Victoria Casino general manager Jim Thomason late Wednesday afternoon to discuss the casino’s objections to the city council possibly allowing video gaming at bars and other establishments in town.

“They’ve always been against it,” Stegall said Tuesday.

He said he heard from casino representatives a couple days after the Jan. 23 council meeting at which, by what appeared to be unanimous consensus, members directed staff to draft the necessary documentation for them to consider allowing Elgin to participate in the state’s video gaming program. Staff was asked to have the documents ready in time for the Feb. 27 council session.

The Wednesday meeting will be about where the Grand Victoria stands on the issue of lifting Elgin’s ban on video gambling other than in the casino and about how the casino will present its case, Stegall said.

Mayor David Kaptain said Tuesday that the last he heard, casino representatives were mulling over giving a presentation at the Feb. 13 city council meeting. He said they had estimated that allowing gaming in the other establishments in Elgin could drop the Grand Victoria’s gross by as much as 5 percent.

The Grand Victoria Casino could not be reached for comment Tuesday other than to confirm the Feb., 13 council meeting appearance by Thomason.

Kaptain said he needs more solid data from the casino about how it would be impacted, given that he has heard most of its gamblers come from outside the city.

Elgin an ‘island’

Last July, Kaptain and the other council members decided not to modify existing rules in Elgin in order to allow video gaming. What changed his mind by January was that most of the towns surrounding Elgin have decided to opt into the program, thus possibly hurting Elgin businesses.

“We’ve become an island,” Kaptain said.

At the Jan. 23 meeting, a few dozen people from places that would like to offer the gaming showed up to plead their case. Prior to that, a committee with Mike Flannagan as its chairman had been lobbying with each council member to garner support for allowing the gambling.

Flannagan got involved in the cause through his membership in Elgin’s Riverside and Moose clubs and American Legion and VFW posts.

He said the riverboat was not an issue for the committee because members don’t see it as competing for the same clientele.

“Ours is casual gaming and can be seen as fun and entertainment while out with the guys, or having a drink or waiting for dinner,” Flannagan said. “It’s a whole different type of person than who goes to the casino. We are concerned about remaining competitive with places in other towns.”

Still, the mayor said he would like clarification on several points before the city moves forward on the matter. Among them would be what types of social clubs are allowed by the state to have gaming.

“Our legal staff is finding out if it is limited to places that have a national charter,” Kaptain said.

He also is concerned about businesses that have limited liquor licenses using those to become “casinos selling sandwiches” and how the city might prevent that from happening.

“Personally, I am not in any hurry on moving forward with this,” Kaptain said of allowing any video gaming in Elgin.

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

The law allows video gambling at establishments where alcohol is served for consumption (as opposed to packaged-goods liquor stores), plus licensed fraternal and veterans establishments and truck stops. 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 have it remain illegal in their borders. The act calls for the gaming vendor and the host establishment each to get 35 percent of profits, with the state getting 25 percent and the local municipality 5 percent.

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