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updated: 7/17/2012 1:31 PM

North Aurora reconsiders, allows video gambling

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North Aurora will allow video gambling after all.

Two trustees changed their minds on the issue Monday night, and the village board voted to allow it in a 4-2 vote.

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Both said that when the board last voted on the measure in June, they were not strongly for or against it. Further talks with village residents changed Trustee Chris Faber's mind.

"I'd say 90 percent of the people I've asked about it say, 'I don't care. If people want to do it, do it,'" he said.

The Turf Room off-track betting parlor and restaurant and The Little Red Schoolhouse bar and restaurant would likely be the first establishments to get video gambling machines. The Turf Room already has applied to the Illinois Gaming Board for a license.

Trustees Laura Curtis and Vince Mancini voted against changing the village's ordinances to allow the devices.

Curtis did so on moral grounds. Mancini cited lack of local control over the process, adding he thinks it's "bad business" for governments to rely on revenue from gambling receipts.

The state authorized video gambling in part to fund a capital projects bill; the village will also receive part of the proceeds and levy an amusement tax on the devices. The board likely will discuss amending its liquor laws so that if a gambling violation occurs, the village liquor commissioner could revoke the establishment's liquor license.

Mancini said he also worries that the state could expand video gambling. The law allows only five such devices in an establishment.

Curtis said research has shown towns with video gambling have more social problems, such as divorce, addiction and child abuse. She said allowing it would send a mixed message to potential real-estate developers, since a few years ago the village board rejected plans to build a "family-friendly" Walmart that would have put much more money in the village's bank account.

Faber, however, called that "an absolutely ridiculous analogy," and Village President Dale Berman pointed out it was a different village board that rejected Walmart.

Curtis replied the comparison was relevant, because the revenue aspect was "the strongest argument" being made in favor. The Turf Room's owner presented a petition with 150 signatures in favor of video gambling; Curtis got him to admit that only 38 of those who signed live in North Aurora. She also questioned him about the size of the bets, the potential jackpots and how long on average a game lasts or a person plays at a terminal.

"My concern is with the welfare of the public," Curtis later said.

Berman said the same worries were raised when the village approved off-track betting in the 1980s, "that it was going to ruin our community. From a police standpoint, we had fewer calls there (at the former OTB on Route 31) than at the bowling alley or any of the retirement homes.

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