Algonquin trustees took up the subject of video gambling on Tuesday night, and directed staff to draft an ordinance that, if approved, would allow businesses in town to apply for the state-issued licenses.
"This is nothing more than another extension of video entertainment for adults, just like the dart machines, just like the Golden Tee (Golf video game)," Trustee Robert Smith said at the committee of the whole meeting, during which several local business owners and gaming operators pleaded with trustees to allow video gambling in Algonquin.
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Trustees Jim Steigert and Brian Dianis, however, disagreed. Trustee Steigert said he didn't like what he saw in other states that allow video gambling, including groups of people congregating. Trustee Dianis said he worries about the enforcement of the 21 and over age limit on video gambling.
If video gambling isn't allowed in Algonquin, the business owners said, it would put them at a disadvantage over their neighbors, compounding the negative effects of the statewide smoking ban and the economic slump of the last few years.
Valerie Hellyer, owner of Creekside Tap, and Jeff Battaglia, owner of Riverview Restaurant and Tavern, said a lot of their customers have expressed interest in video gaming. "The state of Illinois very rarely throws a bone to the hospitality business. Very often they do the opposite," Battaglia said.
The state approved the machines for certain establishments, including restaurants with liquor licenses and fraternal organizations, in 2009, but the state gaming board just recently started accepting applications. Several towns have chosen to allow video gambling, including Fox River Grove, Gilberts, Carol Stream, and Huntley. Moretti's Pizza in Lake in the Hills was approved last month for a license.
"We don't want to see (customers) take their money to Lake in the Hills," Hellyer said. "They want to spend their money here and we do, too."
Resident Frank Gumma, an operator with Ideal Gaming, called video gambling "casual-type gaming," where people can bet only up to $2 per play, with a maximum per-play payout of $500. "This is an opportunity to help the local businesses in the city of Algonquin. Help keep customers in town, prevent them from going to other communities," he said.
Algonquin Police Chief Russell Laine said he consulted with his counterparts in other states, who said video gambling hasn't caused significant increases in crime. However, they also cautioned of the social issues associated with gambling, he said.
Village Manager Bill Ganek said estimates based on state data show the village likely would get about $1,500 yearly per machine -- establishments are allowed a maximum of five machines -- in local revenues on average. One of the local business owners estimated that each machine could add about $15,000 in revenues for businesses.