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updated: 8/19/2014 5:37 PM

Batavia: Still 'no' to video gambling

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Batavia still will not have video gambling.

The city council voted 8-6 Monday to keep its ban in place. It banned video gambling in 2009 when the state first allowed it and gave towns the chance to opt out of having it.

Representatives of Batavia Overseas Post 1197, Veterans of Foreign Wars, had asked the council to reverse the ban. Past post commander Dale Richard said having the machines would help the post's bar and meal business, as it had lost business to the Batavia Moose Lodge and the Aurora Turners Club. The nearby organizations are in unincorporated Kane County, which allows the gambling.

But the Batavia Ministerial Association and other anti-gambling advocates protested the idea, saying gambling leads to problems such as domestic abuse, theft and other crime.

Mayor Jeff Schielke announced last week that if the council voted to reverse the ban, he would veto the measure. He said he doesn't believe the state is living up to its promises to adequately monitor the machines and the terminal operators and licensees.

"I think we are running this thing by a wing and a prayer," he said Tuesday.

Aldermen Alan Wolff, Michael O'Brien, Lucy Thelin Atac, Dave Brown, Garran Sparks and Lisa Clark voted to lift the ban.

Brown said, just like when Batavia considered banning smoking in restaurants and bars in 2007, a town-by-town ban puts Batavia businesses at a disadvantage to those in nearby communities, including North Aurora, Sugar Grove and Elburn, that do allow it. He also said he researched the issue by visiting venues that had the machines, including a video gambling cafe franchise, and saw no problems.

O'Brien said video gambling was "another tool in the toolbox for local businesses" to retain customers, and that he didn't think people would come from out of the area to play the machines. As for worries about people becoming gambling addicts, he compared it to alcoholism, in that it is something people have to deal with personally.

"If they (the customers) want to do it and a business thinks it is right for their business, it is their choice," Wolff said.

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