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updated: 8/19/2014 11:10 AM

Gurnee: Video gambling won't save American Legion Post 771

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  • Video: The need for video gambling

  • American Legion Post 771 strategic planning chairman James Huisel discusses how video gambling would boost the organization's finances.

       American Legion Post 771 strategic planning chairman James Huisel discusses how video gambling would boost the organization's finances.
    Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

 
 

While Gurnee trustees and Mayor Kristina Kovarik agreed Monday they weren't interested in allowing video gambling to boost the local American Legion's finances, she pledged to help find other ways for the organization to raise money.

American Legion Post 771 member and strategic planning chairman James Huisel said the veteran's organization has been forced into selling certificates of deposit and is down to roughly its last $65,000. Declining membership, an aging building and high real estate taxes are hurting the post's financial situation.

Huisel asked the elected officials to consider having Gurnee reverse course and allow video gambling so the post can boost its revenue.

"We're asking for the opportunity to keep our post alive," Huisel said.

But Gurnee's six trustees and Kovarik informally agreed at Monday's nonvoting committee meeting the village is better off not allowing video gambling in bars, restaurants, truck stops, and fraternal and veterans organizations. They also agreed they want to help the Gurnee American Legion.

Trustee Thomas Hood said while video gambling might initially help the American Legion increase revenue in the short term, he contended the organization must try to become more relevant for the long term.

"Gambling, to me, doesn't provide a good solution," Hood said.

Kovarik said she wants to meet with American Legion representatives on how the village can help. She said it's possible the village can assist in fundraising or promotional efforts so more residents know about Post 771.

"I certainly want to find a way to help the American Legion," Kovarik said. "No 'ifs' 'ands' or 'buts' about it."

Video gambling is permitted in bars, restaurants, truck stops and fraternal orders in communities where it has been approved. Each establishment is limited to five machines, and they must be in areas accessible only to people at least 21 years old.

Five percent of net revenue goes to a municipality and 25 percent to the state, with the terminal operator and licensed establishment splitting the remainder.

Gurnee American Legion Post 771 isn't alone in looking at video gambling as a way to survive declining membership.

Some veterans organizations are reporting strong video gambling income. American Legion Post 911 in Wauconda reported about $120,000 in income from the machines last year.

After two years, Huntley American Legion Post 673 received its gambling license in February. The post reports it made about $15,000 the past three months.

Days before Lake Zurich reversed its video gambling ban in April, American Legion Post 964 Senior Vice Cmdr. Jim Lumsden said the organization was continuing its two-year push for the devices. He said the post already hosts poker and bingo nights.

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