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posted: 8/21/2012 10:27 PM

No referendum on video gambling in Sugar Grove

Video poker won't be on the ballot in Sugar Grove

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Sugar Grove President Sean Michels Tuesday put the kibosh on asking residents, in an advisory referendum, whether they want video gambling in town. But the matter may have been moot, because the deadline for allowing such a referendum seems to have passed.

Trustee Kevin Geary proposed the idea after hearing speakers for and against video gambling at a village board meeting Tuesday night.

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"I'm kind of stuck in the middle. I'm hearing from both ends, but I'm not hearing a clear answer," he said. Trustee Thomas Renk agreed. "If we could still slip in and get an advisory referendum, I would be much more comfortable abiding by the wishes of our community," he said.

The board could not vote on a referendum, because the item was not on the published agenda for the meeting.

Geary said the Kane County clerk's office told him Aug. 30 was the deadline for municipalities to submit a referendum question. But the Illinois State Board of Elections' 2012 election calendar says Aug. 20 was the deadline for municipalities to adopt resolutions allowing advisory or binding referendums; Aug. 30 is the date for the election authority to certify the questions.

Michels took a straw poll of the board, which tied 3-3. Trustees Mari Johnson, Bob Bohler and David Paluch did not want a referendum.

"I think we are elected to make decisions," said Michels, who broke the tie. He favors continuing to allow video gambling.

At its next meeting on Sept. 4, the board is expected to vote on an ordinance banning video gambling.

It discussed the matter informally two weeks ago. Then the Sugar Grove American Legion Post, which has applied to the state for a video gambling license, had an open house to show where it would put the terminals and for the public to meet a representative of its terminal operation company.

Cliff Barker, speaking for the American Legion post and its auxiliaries, said Sugar Grove could lose business to nearby towns that do allow video gambling, and that the Legion would run a strict operation, because it doesn't want to risk losing its liquor license with a gambling violation.

"We just ask that you let us show we can do it," he said.

Kane County Board member Melisa Taylor of Sugar Grove urged the board to let some other towns try video gambling first, doubting the state will pay the village the share of the tax on gross receipts that it is supposed to.

Pastors of Village Bible and St. Katherine Drexel Catholic churches also spoke of social problems that arise from gambling, including the costs of helping people hurt by gambling addictions.

But resident Joe Didier said prohibiting video gambling wouldn't stop addicts from gambling, because they can "sit in their basement and gamble on their computers.

"You are not going to stop a thing by not having it in Sugar Grove," Didier said.

The gambling terminals are allowed in places that serve liquor, including fraternal organizations and veterans organizations, and truck stops that sell at least 10,000 gallons of fuel a month. There are at least four places in Sugar Grove that could qualify for a license, but only the American Legion has applied.

While applauding the Legion's desire to earn more money for its charitable work, and possibly attract more members, trustees were worried about other potential licensees. Those could include "micro-bars" whose primary income is from gambling, with few seats and bare-minimum food and drink service.

One, with just eight seats, has been proposed in Bloomington, and a representative of operator Tiger Amusements Vending said he heard 45 such places have applied for licenses. Five terminals are allowed per establishment.

Bohler said he saw video gambling as more of a rights issue than a morals issue. Noting he has two nephews and a niece in the armed services, he said, "If I disallow these machines in this town, what are these kids fighting for?"

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