The city of Elgin is poised to reverse its stance on video gambling after a group of establishments and organizations pleaded with the city council at Wednesday night's meeting to allow the practice.
Video gambling went live across Illinois in October. The council last took up the subject in July, when the consensus was to maintain the ban.
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On Wednesday night, council members said they changed their minds, mostly after talking with owners of establishments and fraternal organizations who banded together under the name Elgin Video Gaming Committee.
Elgin is surrounded by municipalities that allow video gambling, which means local businesses are losing customers who want to gamble.
"We're an island of noncompetitiveness. We didn't know that in July," councilman John Prigge said.
Council members Anna Moeller and Richard Dunne said they were initially leery of the notion that the state would pay for capital improvements with its portion of video gambling monies. However, both said they now believe it would benefit Elgin businesses to allow video gambling.
Mike Flannagan, chairman of the Elgin Video Gaming Committee, said 30 of the 54 establishments with a liquor license that would be eligible for video gaming support it. Another 10 are waiting for management approval, he said.
"Elgin must have an equal playing field with surrounding communities to allow for fair competition," Flanagan said. "By opting out of video gaming, the city of Elgin is creating unfair advantages and practices."
Estimates say that video gambling revenues could reach up to $644,000 per year for the city if all 54 establishments with a liquor license obtained five machines, the maximum allowed per establishment, Flannagan said.
Mayor David Kaptain said he'd like that money to be set aside for social service agencies who apply for grants from the city.
Flannagan also argued that clientele that frequents Grand Victoria Casino is not the same that would enjoy video gambling.
"Grand Victoria Casino has already seen a significant impact from increased competition and, more recently, further declining revenues as a result of video gaming in bars," casino general manager Jim Thomason said.
City Manager Sean Stegall said the video gambling resolution can be ready by the Feb. 27 council meeting.
Communities that allow video gambling include: Carpentersville, East Dundee, Gilberts, Huntley, Hampshire, Pingree Grove, Lake in the Hills, South Elgin and Hoffman Estates.
Video gambling is also allowed in unincorporated Kane County. West Dundee is expected to vote on the matter in February.