Algonquin will no longer be an island when it comes to video gambling.
Tuesday night, the village board took a preliminary vote to allow video gambling into Algonquin and also beefed up a proposed ordinance that regulates it beyond the state's requirements. The board also agreed to put all of the revenue it earns from video gambling into the village's recreation fund.
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"We're pleased with the village in supporting the small businesses," Jeff Battaglia owner of the Riverview Restaurant and Tavern, said after the vote. "I've had my employees for a long time I do not like to cut their hours. I think this will provide some assistance for us where people will be able to maintain their hours."
The board is scheduled to vote on the ordinance next Tuesday.
If the board approves the ordinance, the video gambling license would be tied to an establishment's liquor license, so if there's a violation of the video gambling license, the business could lose its liquor license. As well, a physical barrier would be required to separate video gambling areas within restaurants and employees would need to undergo training on the machines.
There would also be signage that says you must be 21 and older to play. As well, video cameras will be on site to capture all illegal activity.
Village President John Schmitt said the village was making a mistake by allowing video gambling because he doesn't think it fits Algonquin's image. He also said it's another opportunity for "some 17 year old with a lot of makeup on to get into trouble."
But since Algonquin has the power to regulate it, the village should make sure it's done right, he said. "It is going to be policed very tightly," Schmitt warned a trio of business owners. "Be careful because your real core business is your liquor license ... if you lose it, you're out of business."
Several surrounding towns, including Huntley, Carpentersville, the Dundees, Lake in the Hills and Gilberts welcomed video gambling last summer after the state approved regulations to govern it. But Algonquin took six months off to see how video gambling went in other towns and to do their own study to measure its impact elsewhere.
Trustees Robert Smith and Jerry Glogowski voted for video gambling as a way to create a level playing field for the small businesses owners who say they have fallen on hard times in this economy.
"It was a real, real tough decision for me," said Glogowski, who was originally against the proposal. "But I believe these businesses have to have an opportunity to stay competitive in some local communities."
Trustees Jim Steigert, Debby Sosine John Spella, also approved it. Meanwhile, Schmitt and Trustee Brian Dianis were the lone no votes.
Dianis said the bars and restaurants aren't the only businesses in town that are suffering and that video gambling would encourage people to spend money that they should be saving.
"It's not just a revenue side of the equation," Dianis said.
Shortly after Schmitt was elected village president, the board would have gotten $300,000 a year if it welcomed off-track betting into town, he said. But the board said no because that wasn't the image it wanted for Algonquin, Schmitt said. He has the same feeling about video gambling and he fears Algonquin would become a "Mecca for machines" because it has the more restaurants and bars that could accommodate it.
"The businesses are better served by a clientele ... that says I want to go to Algonquin because it's a class place to be,'" Schmitt said. "I think your businesses are going to be better served by that than by having a couple of machines."