Much to the surprise -- and relief -- of Elgin's video gambling supporters, Grand Victoria Casino officials said Wednesday that they won't stand in the way of bringing the practice to town.
Grand Victoria officials don't want local businesses to suffer, casino general manager Jim Thomason said during a city council committee of the whole meeting. He pointed to the now-closed True Value Hardware store on Route 31 in South Elgin.
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"You don't want to see another business in Elgin have to do what they have to do there," he said. "And we think that's the right thing -- that not any of these organizations should have to close their doors or move, or that they should struggle to compete."
Grand Victoria initially opposed any gaming expansion in Illinois.
The Elgin City Council first took up the subject in July, and it didn't take any action. Last month, the council directed city staff members to draft an ordinance that would allow video gambling in Elgin, saying they didn't want local businesses to be hurt by competition from nearby towns.
Thomason said the city council knows what's best for Elgin.
"And in the long-run, what's best for your city is best for us, too," he said.
Members of the so-called Elgin Video Gaming Committee said they were elated. The committee comprises local establishments and fraternal organizations that have pleaded with city council members to allow video gambling in Elgin.
"I was floored tonight by what happened," said Jim McGrath, who owns McGruder's Irish Pub.
"We came here prepared for rebuttals, and there was a great sigh of relief from that group tonight," he said, later adding, "(Grand Victoria has) done a lot for the city, and we know that everyone in this town knows that. We just didn't want to fall through the cracks ourselves."
Club 58 owner Diana Lange said she was very surprised at Grand Victoria's change of heart.
"I went outside to shake his hand and thank (Thomason)," Lange said. "It was wonderful to hear."
Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said the video gaming ordinance hopefully will be ready by the Feb. 27 council meeting, or shortly after.
Thomason's statement came after a 20-minute video in which several officials -- including Kaptain, Councilman Robert Gilliam, Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent Jose Torres, Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce President Carol Gieske, and more -- touted the contributions the casino has made to Elgin since it opened in 1994.
Grand Victoria has brought $338 million in revenues to Elgin over time; 12.5 percent of casino profits go to its philanthropic arm, the Grand Victoria Foundation, the video stated.