Elk Grove Village approves video gambling

The Elk Grove Village board voted unanimously Tuesday night to allow video gambling within the village.

The board passed an ordinance that amends the village code so that an exception in the ban against gambling is made for the video machines. The village has granted exceptions for off-track betting, bingo and casino nights run by nonprofit charitable organizations in the past.

Mayor Craig Johnson, who said he supported the ordinance, called the move an “oversight issue.” In allowing for video gambling in the village, he said, officials can ensure that it is strictly regulated in addition to whatever economic benefits the community derives from the machines.

“This village will make sure it has very tight control and oversight of it, as we do with so many other things in the village,” Johnson said. “The community's hope is it's something that will work well and that it will help businesses that are in need of it.”

Before the vote, the board allowed for comments from residents. Six people voiced their opposition to the ordinance, most of whom said they were worried about how video gambling would affect Elk Grove Village's family-friendly environment and the potentially addictive nature of these games.

Nancy Duel, chairwoman of the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church's Anti-Gambling Task Force, was one of many opposed citizens. She called video gambling “the crack cocaine of gambling” and said she was concerned that allowing it within the village would hurt residents.

“When it (video gambling) is placed in local bars, restaurants and clubs, it becomes very accessible to local residents who might never travel any distance to a casino,” Duel said.

Don Kontos was one of three local business owners who voiced his support for video gambling. The Where Else Bar & Grill owner said many other addictive products are legal, and there are benefits to be reaped from video gambling.

“It's up to you to see you don't get addicted to gambling or liquor or food or anything like that,” Kontos said. “With these machines, if we don't put them in Elk Grove, they're going to put them in neighboring towns, and we're going to lose business.”

The Illinois Gaming Board will begin granting licenses Aug. 1. No more than five machines can be placed in licensed locations, which are limited by the state to truck stops, bars, restaurants with liquor licenses and halls of fraternal or veterans organizations.

All establishments with liquor licenses in Elk Grove Village also serve food.

The board now must establish the parameters for licensed locations. Johnson said an emphasis will be placed on how to demarcate the area in which the games are placed, which must be segregated and shut off from people under 21.

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