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Article updated: 4/20/2012 7:13 PM

Palatine officials say gambling ban still in place

By Kimberly Pohl

Palatine officials maintain it's unnecessary to take any action to prevent businesses from becoming eligible for video gambling machines later this year, pointing to a longtime ban already on the village's books.

Nor do they believe that a recent change to Palatine's ordinance opened the door to any possibility of the machines popping up.

"We had said before and continue to say now, unequivocally, that our code prohibits gaming," Village Manager Reid Ottesen said.

Still, in response to one resident's concerns, village attorney Bob Kenny is taking a comprehensive look at the local law and how it relates to the state's plan to begin issuing licenses to bars and restaurants.

Mark Evenson said Palatine may have actually "opted into" video gambling last month. The village's law still reads, "There shall be no card games or gambling allowed on any premises licensed to sell alcoholic liquor," but officials last month added "unless otherwise exempted by law."

"Before that clause was added, it would have been true to say Palatine prohibits gambling," Evenson said. "But if the Illinois Gaming Board interprets the ordinance as permitting it, they're free to award licenses."

Ottesen said one of the village's 2012 tasks is to update is liquor code. As a result, the clause was added to allow for pull-tabs, chances to win money which are sold by certain charitable organizations such as the American Legion.

"If the state act gives them an exemption to sell them, then we should allow for that," Ottesen said. "That was the sole reason for the change."

As for locations without liquor licenses, Ottesen said gambling isn't listed as a permitted or special use and that an operator would require council approval to allow it.

Evenson said he checked with the Elmhurst-based Citizen Advocacy Center to get the opinion of one of the nonprofit organization's community lawyers. Attorney Maryam Judar wrote Evenson that she finds the "clause to be ambiguous, necessitating an understanding of its history."

"It's ambiguous to me, too, so I find it odd Palatine would make that kind of change," Evenson said.

Though Evenson acknowledges he's not an attorney and that his fears about Palatine's modified ordinance being ineffective may be unfounded, he'd like the village to pass a clearer ordinance banning the machines, just as Schaumburg and Gurnee recently did.

Some counties and towns, including Kane County and Winfield, are reversing course, repealing their bans in hopes of generating revenue once the state begins handing out licenses.

For every dollar gambled, counties and towns will receive 5 percent of each machine's revenue above what's paid out. The state will receive 25 percent, with the rest to be evenly split between establishment owners and the terminal operators.

"There's never been any interest on behalf of the council to allow video gambling, and we don't feel we've opened any sort of door to it," Ottesen said.

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