DuPage keeps ban on video gambling in unincorporated areas

DuPage County's ban on video gambling in unincorporated areas will remain in place after a county board committee refused to repeal the prohibition.

County board members on Tuesday heard from business owners and residents about whether DuPage should lift its video gambling ban that affects 32 bars, restaurants, golf courses and veterans groups.

But after listening to people on both sides of the debate, board members ended their finance committee meeting without making a recommendation to the full county board.

In fact, none of the 18 board members participating in the meeting supported a motion to consider repealing the ordinance.

"So there's no interest in even discussing the issue," said county board member Paul Fichtner, who serves as chairman of the board's finance committee. "The issue is dead and nobody, obviously, is in favor of it."

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.

In recent months, some bar owners in unincorporated areas have argued that they've lost customers to establishments where video gambling is allowed. On Tuesday, county officials confirmed there are 11 unincorporated liquor license establishments that are within a mile of at least one video gambling location.

Jeremy Truex, one of the owners of JT's Porch Saloon & Eatery near Lombard, said businesses in unincorporated areas should be given "the ability to complete on a level field with surrounding communities."

But supporters of the ban say repealing it would result in video gambling cafes coming to unincorporated areas.

Naperville resident Bill Bryan said there's a "profound social cost" to allowing video gambling. He said gambling breaks up marriages and families and causes the loss of jobs and homes.

So while the county would earn revenue, he said, lifting the ban "doesn't sound like a very good bet."

"Keep our county the wonderful county that it is by holding the line on the continued expansion of gambling in our society," Bryan said.

A few board members said there were questions that weren't answered during Tuesday's review, but no one expressed a desire to bring the issue back in two weeks.

"It couldn't even get a motion," board member Tim Elliott said. "So I think that in fairness to board members that have questions, (staff) can get back, write a memo and do whatever.

"But as far as I'm concerned, this is dead," he said.

Had the ban been lifted, county officials said 32 liquor license holders would be eligible to apply for a video gambling license.

DuPage would have gained up to $312,000 a year in revenue if all the establishments got at least four terminals, according to one estimate. Counties and towns that allow video gambling receive 5 percent of each machine's profit.

County board Chairman Dan Cronin reacted to what happened Tuesday by saying "the county board has spoken."

While he has "some empathy" for the business owners who want the ban lifted, Cronin said "there's a larger issue here about who we are as a county."

"That's important to us," he said. "And the overwhelming majority of folks spoke."

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, according to the Illinois Gaming Board.

  John Dwyer, who owns Rosie O Reilly's in Wheaton, voiced support for video gambling, adding that it's a form of entertainment. Robert Sanchez/
There doesn't appear to be a desire among DuPage County Board members to lift the county's nearly eight-year ban on video gambling machines in unincorporated areas. Daily Herald file photo
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