Could DuPage County give video gambling another chance?

One decade after DuPage became the first county in Illinois to ban video gambling, the vice chairman of the county board says the panel should consider repealing the prohibition.

Jim Zay said he's been hearing from businesses and a Veterans of Foreign Wars post that say they need video gambling to generate more revenue. But they can't install the machines unless DuPage lifts its ban, which affects more than two dozen bars, restaurants and veterans groups in unincorporated areas.

"We have businesses in unincorporated areas that want to compete with businesses in incorporated areas that have video gaming," the Carol Stream Republican said Wednesday. "They want to be on the same footing."

To compete, several restaurants and bars chose to annex into municipalities that allow video gambling, in some cases taking neighboring businesses with them.

"Not only are we losing revenue we could get from video gaming," Zay said. "We're losing unincorporated area and regular sales tax that we could be getting."

Zay wants the DuPage County Board to take another look at video gambling and will ask the finance committee to discuss the issue.

"We've already had most of our discussion on cannabis," he said. "I think this would be a good time to talk about video gaming."

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

Municipalities throughout DuPage initially followed the county's lead, but many towns gradually started lifting their bans.

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

The idea of repealing DuPage's ban was discussed more than two years ago.

At the time, it was estimated DuPage could have gained up to $312,000 a year in new revenue if the ban was lifted and all of its liquor license holders received a video gambling license. But the county board's finance committee in June 2017 refused to repeal the moratorium.

Zay says he believes the politics are different now.

"The board has changed from two years ago," he said.

When DuPage first approved its ban, Zay said, there were a lot of unanswered questions about video gambling.

Now it "is just about everywhere," he said. There's also a decade of data showing businesses with the machines can operate without problems.

"Everybody worries you're going to go into a restaurant with your family and there's going to be video gaming," Zay said. "The way the restaurants and bars have done it, they have put it in different areas so you're not looking at it all the time."

While DuPage could use the extra tax revenue, Zay said his goal is to help businesses in unincorporated areas compete.

Jim Zay
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