The Prospect Heights City Council, by a vote of 4-1, approved an ordinance Monday night that will allow for video gambling in businesses within the city.
The ordinance comes at a time when many towns are reconsidering earlier bans on video gambling. Prospect Heights, which becomes one of the first towns to formally approve the practice, had not opted out of the state law that legalized the machines, but needed to amend its city code to outline the city's procedures regarding the issue and to match regulations set by the state.
Though many of the aldermen on the council expressed concerns about the move, most eventually came to view the move as a positive.
Alderman Luis Mendez mentioned the possibility of video gambling calling for increased police presence -- an issue raised by Alderman Bree Higgins in the last meeting -- but both eventually cast votes in favor of the ordinance. Police Chief Jamie Dunne said there wasn't any reason to believe video gambling would be problematic from a law and order perspective.
"It does not generate police issues, generally," Dunne said. "I would not anticipate any additional calls based on this being in the establishments."
Alderman Scott Williamson stated that he was personally against the move at the last city council meeting, but after talking with his constituents, he believed it was right for the city.
"I personally don't like it, but I realized I'm a man alone, on an island," Williamson said. "I went out; I talked to 30 people. They all said: if it brings in a dollar, that's a dollar more than you had yesterday."
The only dissension came from Alderman John Styler, who was not present at the last meeting.
Before the vote, George Sellis spoke in support of the ordinance. He said Rocky Vander's, a family-owned bar and restaurant that he has been operating in the area for more than 20 years, has struggled recently, and that the introduction of video gambling might be able to revitalize it. He added that video gambling would be in the area either way, and that allowing it in the city would be leveling the playing field.
"We want to stay competitive with the other towns," Sellis said. "We think this would help our business."
Prospect Heights will receive 5 percent of gross revenue generated by video gambling. Alderman Patrick Ludvigsen said, based on reports the council has received, the city should receive between $60,000 and $70,000 from the move.
Licenses for video gambling are expected to be issued by the Illinois Gaming Board beginning Aug. 1. Establishments with video gambling machines must serve food and liquor and have a separate area for the machines off limits to people under the age of 21. There is a maximum of five machines per location, and a business with video gambling cannot be within 1,000 feet of another gambling facility.