St. Charles will continue allowing video gambling at licensed establishments, the city council decided Monday night. But some aldermen voiced concerns that the city lacks controls for reevaluating the program in the future.
An ordinance legalizing the machines was activated in September 2016, nearly a year after the city council narrowly approved lifting its video gambling ban. The measure included a sunset clause that would have kicked in April 30 if aldermen hadn't voted 7-3 Monday to eliminate it.
No violations or crimes related to video gambling were reported during the program's 18-month trial period, Police Chief James Keegan said. Thirteen establishments operate 55 machines in the city, he said, and a handful of license applications are pending.
If problems do arise at any point, the city council could reconsider its video gambling regulations or end the program altogether, Mayor Ray Rogina said. But Alderman Rita Payleitner, one of the program's most vocal opponents, questioned what level of crime, revenue shortage or social issues would warrant such action.
"Once this door is opened, it's really difficult to close," she said. "What's your line in the sand?"
For Alderman Steve Gaugel, that line consists of any state-level changes that could reduce the amount of money collected by the city or its establishments. Gaugel, who initially opposed video gambling in 2015, said he now feels he can support the program as long as it's generating revenue, assisting businesses and causing no apparent harm.
"The minute the state does something to change those rules is the minute I think we all need to look very hard at reevaluating allowing video gambling," he said.
As of last month, video gambling has generated about $2.57 million in net taxable income for the city's licensed establishments, according to the Illinois Gaming Board. A 30 percent tax on those profits brought in about $642,526 for the state, while the city collected $128,505.
Several business owners earlier this month said video gambling has increased customer traffic and helped them remain competitive. But Payleitner said the city's share of the revenues is on the low end of initial projections, which indicated the city could bring in between $100,000 and $700,000 per year.
Payleitner and Alderman Maureen Lewis voted against maintaining the city's video gambling ordinance, saying they'd prefer to extend the sunset clause for another two years rather than remove it. Alderman Ron Silkaitis also voted "no" without comment, though he said earlier he doesn't believe the machines fit with the city's image.