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Article updated: 4/8/2013 11:53 PM

Gambling wins, loses in Prospect Heights

By Deborah Donovan

Gambling was on the agenda of the Prospect Heights City Council Monday night, and the votes produced winners and losers.

The council agreed unanimously to give Players Pub Bar & Grill $300,000 in tax increment financing money to build an off-track betting parlor. But three of the five aldermen held firm against creating more than one beer and wine license for cafes established to have video gambling. Blackhawk Restaurant Group wants to open three bistros in the city to serve beer, wine and light food. A local liquor license is required to obtain a state gaming permit.

Players received $200,000 for spending more than $1 million redeveloping a blighted property when they moved in to 1250 S. River Road, said Dave Dziedzic, an owner of the bar and grill. This new project will cost more than $627,000, he said, and his partner, John Fianda, said refurbishing the parking lot would add $300,000 to that.

City officials were pleased that Players obtained a 10-year lease from Hawthorne Race Course to operate the betting parlor, which will be separate from the pub.

Jeffrey Kras, chief financial officer of Hawthorne, said the temporary facility at Players is headed toward an $11 million year, which he thought was impressive since it is so close to Arlington Park and its off-track operation.

The landlords of all three shopping centers where Blackhawk wants to put its Penny's bistros asked the council to create the needed liquor licenses.

After the meeting Alderman Patrick Ludvigsen of Ward 4 called this a "new way of doing video gambling, setting up a place with wine and food and beer just to have gambling rather than a place that is already a restaurant."

He voted against more than one license with Scott Williamson of Ward 3 and Bree Higgins of Ward 5. However, Ludvigsen then voted with Luis Mendez of Ward 1 and John Styler of Ward 2 to create one license.

Mendez said in six years on the council a landlord had never come in support of a tenant, and he called the vote against three licenses "really sad."

Mayor Nick Helmer agreed.

"It's our duty to serve the public, and I don't think that was done tonight," he said.

It takes six months after the liquor license is granted to get gaming licenses from the state of Illinois, Helmer told aldermen before the vote.

Mike Thiessen, a Blackhawk partner, said he thought it was up to Helmer which site will get a license. The sites in contention are Prospect Crossing on Rand Road; Palwaukee Plaza at Palatine Road and Milwaukee Avenue; and Prospect Heights Plaza on Elmhurst Road right across from city hall.

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