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posted: 3/3/2016 5:30 AM

Bensenville Park District may ask DuPage County to lift video gambling ban

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  • Bensenville Park District might ask DuPage County to lift a ban on video gambling in unincorporated parts of the county.

    Bensenville Park District might ask DuPage County to lift a ban on video gambling in unincorporated parts of the county.
    Daily Herald file photo


Bensenville Park District officials are considering asking DuPage County to lift its nearly seven-year ban on video gambling.

Some park commissioners say the district-owned White Pines Golf Course could get a significant revenue boost if video gambling machines were installed at its clubhouse.

However, the district can't get any machines because of DuPage's moratorium, which affects more than two dozen restaurants, bars and golf courses in unincorporated parts of the county.

Wednesday night, Bensenville park commissioners discussed whether the district should ask county board members to consider lifting the ban. No decision was made during the meeting, which drew nearly 30 people.

"My mindset is let's look at it," said John Wassinger, president of the Bensenville park board. "Let's have the conversation. If we feel like we would want to pursue it and make an appeal to the county, that's what we would do."

Illinois legalized video gambling in 2009. But towns and counties were able to opt out. DuPage enacted its ban in August 2009 after officials cited possible social problems.

Initially, towns throughout DuPage followed the county's lead. But in recent years a number of municipalities have lifted their bans.

According to the Illinois Gaming Board, the DuPage towns that allow video gambling are Addison, Aurora, Bensenville, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Darien, Glendale Heights, Itasca, Oakbrook Terrace, Roselle, Villa Park, Westmont, Willowbrook, Wood Dale and Woodridge.

Counties and municipalities that allow video gambling receive 5 percent of each machine's profit.

The state takes 25 percent, while establishment owners and the terminal operators evenly split the rest.

If DuPage's ban is lifted, White Pines would be eligible to have up to five machines.

On Wednesday, the Bensenville park board members reviewed data from three neighboring towns -- Addison, Bensenville and Wood Dale -- showing that establishments with five machines made at least $46,000 in profit last year.

One business in Addison made $227,695.

Because tens of thousands of people visit White Pines each year to golf or attend weddings and other events, Wassinger said he believes video gambling machines could generate "a significant amount of money."

He said the park district is always looking for new sources of revenue to offset rising expenses at the golf course.

Still, most of the residents who attended Wednesday's meeting oppose the idea of having video gambling at White Pines.

"Gambling does not belong at a park district facility," said Gina Mellenthin, a former park commissioner. "The park district is for families. You have kids going there to golf."

Kathy Gilroy, an anti-gambling advocate from Villa Park, agreed with Mellenthin that park districts shouldn't have any machines because gambling is addictive.

"Please don't take a chance on slots at White Pines Golf Course," Gilroy said. "Just continue to do what's working and maintain your ... family-friendly character here without slots."

Several park board members said they want more information -- including whether police have reported any problems at facilities with video gambling -- before they can make a decision.

One commissioner suggested the district pursue a ballot question to find out what voters want.

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