Marijuana sales, video gambling likely will be on ballot in Rosemont

Rosemont likely will ask its 1,600 registered voters to weigh in at the ballot box in March about whether the village should overturn its long-standing ban on video gambling, as well as allow recreational marijuana sales in town.

Mayor Brad Stephens said informal conversations with village board members and residents show opinions on both controversial issues are "so far, pretty much down the middle."

So the board is expected to vote Wednesday morning to put two advisory ballot questions on the March 17, 2020 primary ballot to survey voters.

And if the results are "more than a handful" one side or the other, the board will follow that direction, Stephens said.

"We're looking for some input from our people," he said. "It's a lot easier to do it this way. This way they can say their piece in private."

After his annual State of the Village address last month, Stephens indicated that most village trustees were leaning toward opting out of recreational marijuana sales.

But, he noted this week, the board is not "100% in unison."

That may be because of the anticipated revenues pot sales could provide to village coffers. Stephens says with recreational marijuana and video gambling together, it could mean anywhere from $1.5 million to $3 million in new annual funds.

"They've gotta weigh any perception from video poker and cannabis sales versus what the revenues could be," he said.

That money could be used to repay debt, like the planned construction of a new public safety department building north of the Allstate Arena, estimated to cost upward of $35 million.

As for video gambling, Stephens said it could be well-suited for many of the village's hotels, and he also anticipated many bars would take advantage of it. The existing 50 liquor license holders in town would be eligible to apply for gambling licenses.

Officials decided to take another look because of the revenues nearby municipalities have received from the machines. But Stephens says if voters give their OK, the village would be more restrictive on how the machines are presented within venues by having cordoned-off areas with opaque walls and glass.

"In talking to board members, there's been consistent discussions that if this passes, we'd want them to have food, and be a little bit more than a pop-up 200-foot Stella's with a high-top table they call a bar with a six-pack behind it," he said.

The referendums won't be the only thing on the ballot of interest to Rosemont voters next March. Stephens, who was appointed by Republican committeemen to the state representative seat vacated by Michael McAuliffe in June, will be on the GOP primary ballot for the 20th District seat. He would potentially face Democrat R. Cary Capparelli in the November general election.

Sports wagering and video gambling coming soon to Rosemont?

Brad Stephens
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