West Chicago reverses citywide ban on video gambling

West Chicago has overturned its 2010 ban on video gambling.

With a 9-to-5 vote on Monday, the city council passed two ordinances: One regulates video gambling within West Chicago, while the other amends city liquor codes for the licensing of video gambling establishments.

An earlier repeal vote was tabled two weeks ago to allow the city's aldermen more time to raise public awareness. This was reflected during the online meeting with nearly a half-hour of submitted and read-aloud public comments for or against the repeal.

Aldermen Melissa Birch-Ferguson, Heather Brown, Lori Chassee, Christine Dettmann, Joseph Morano, Jayme Sheahan, Jeanne Short, Rebecca Stout and Christopher Swiatek were in favor of the repeal. Aldermen James Beifuss, Sandy Dimas, Matt Garling, Alton Hallett and John Jakabcsin voted against it.

Though Illinois legalized video gambling statewide in 2009, many towns such as West Chicago and Warrenville were allowed to opt out. Both passed citywide video gambling bans soon thereafter.

West Chicago residents expressed further displeasure with video gambling via a 2018 nonbinding referendum. That saw 69% of primary election voters advising the city council not to repeal its ban.

Many aldermen seized upon those referendum results to buttress arguments against video gambling.

"It's incumbent upon us to accept and respect that," Beifuss said. "Most of the people who came out and showed up said, 'No.'"

Beifuss was then unsuccessful in adding an amendment to the ordinances, which would have tabled the vote until after another video gaming referendum potentially slated for the June 2022 primary election.

In voicing her support for the repeal, Chassee cited the many financial difficulties some West Chicago business owners have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also hit upon the need for West Chicago to remain competitive.

"All of our neighboring communities in fact are allowing this to happen," said Chassee, in a nod to Warrenville's repeal of its video gambling ban this past September. "Though it's not primarily about tax revenue, it is about putting our businesses on an even footing with our neighbors."

West Chicago staff estimated potential video gambling revenue at $143,000 annually.

As part of West Chicago's video gambling regulations, business owners must possess a valid liquor license for at least a year before applying. The annual license fee is $1,000 per video gambling terminal.

A maximum of six video gambling terminals are allowed, depending upon a restaurant-seating ratio. For instance, a restaurant with 15 seats could only apply for three terminals.

Video gambling in West Chicago is scheduled to begin on Jan. 1.

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