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updated: 8/6/2014 11:44 AM

Batavia mayor promises to veto video gambling

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  • The Batavia Overseas Post 1197, Veterans of Foreign Wars, is asking Batavia to rescind its ban on video gambling.

      The Batavia Overseas Post 1197, Veterans of Foreign Wars, is asking Batavia to rescind its ban on video gambling.
    Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

Editor's note: An incorrect date was given for the next Batavia City Council meeting. It will meet Aug. 18.

Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke on Tuesday promised to veto any effort to overturn the city's ban on video gambling.

He cited concerns about how the state regulates the industry, saying promised oversights -- such as instant online monitoring of terminals and "deep" criminal background checks on licensed operators -- have not come through as promised.

"I'm not signing it (a reversal of the 2009 ban) if it gets approved, and that means it would get vetoed," Schielke said.

But he may not have to use his veto power. At a committee-of-the-whole meeting Tuesday, Aldermen voted 6-5 to recommend against dropping the ban. Three aldermen were absent.

Two of those who voted to keep the ban on Tuesday had changed their minds since the council last discussed the matter July 15. At that time, eight aldermen voted in favor of recommending reversing the ban, and only two favored keeping it. Four aldermen were absent from the July meeting. The city council plans to vote on the matter Aug. 18.

Aldermen Nick Cerone and Steve Vasilion, who were absent Tuesday, previously said they agreed with scuttling the ban. Alderman Susan Stark, who was absent at both meetings, hasn't publicized a position.

It would take a 10-vote supermajority to override the mayor's veto.

People again pleaded with the aldermen on Tuesday to keep video gambling out of Batavia, including representatives of several churches. The Batavia Ministerial Association opposes it, said the Rev. Michael Rasicci, convener of the association and pastor of Calvary Episcopal Church. Members believe there will be increased social ills due to people becoming gamblers, he said.

The Overseas Post 1197, Veterans of Foreign Wars, had asked the city to reverse the ban. Past post commander Dale Richard of Batavia said the post is losing bar and food business to nearby Aurora Turners Club and Batavia Moose Lodge. Both have video gambling, because they are in unincorporated Kane County, which allows it.

"Morality is not legislated," Richard said. "My position is this is a business. Like any other business, it has its ups and its downs."

Richard promised that, if the VFW notices anyone developing a problem with gambling, "I will take care of it. We take care of our own," Richard said.

Alderman Drew McFadden said video gambling is out of character for Batavia. And dollars going in to the machines are not "magic new dollars," he said, but are diverted from spending on other items.

"For all of us, we got elected, we took an oath to the office, and one of the major things about that was to do what's in the best interest of the city as a whole. Video gambling is good for a few, but how is it good for all of Batavia?" McFadden said. "At the best it is net neutral, and more likely it is negative."

Alderman Garran Sparks disagreed.

"This is an issue of your rights, and a business has a right to do stuff in their business to make money as long as it is legal, and right now in this state it is legal," Sparks said. "I don't understand while all of a sudden we are talking about video gambling ... but you have to be responsible for your own morals. The government can't keep making rules to keep your morals in line."

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