Des Plaines candidates divided about video gambling at restaurants, bars

Des Plaines' aldermanic candidates are split on whether the city council should lift a ban on video gambling at local bars and restaurants.

Some say they're open to ending the embargo; one even strongly supports such a change.

Others, however, oppose allowing businesses to install the lucrative machines because of the potential impact on Rivers Casino's revenue or for other reasons.

Residents in four wards will choose representatives for the next four years in the April 4 election. The eight candidates - two in each ward - discussed video gambling and other issues in online interviews with the Daily Herald.

Illinois lawmakers legalized video gambling at bars, restaurants, truck stops and fraternal organizations in 2009. Local governments can decide whether the machines should be allowed in their communities.

Many of the towns around Des Plaines - including Mount Prospect, Rosemont and Elk Grove Village - allow video gambling.

As of December, 45,008 gambling machines were installed in 8,226 establishments, state records show. Video gambling put $786 million into the state's coffers in 2022 and $135.5 million into participating municipalities' accounts.

Open since 2011, Rivers generated about $11.5 million for the city in 2022, officials said.

2nd Ward

Incumbent Martin J. "Colt" Moylan is being challenged by Earl Wilson in the 2nd Ward, which covers part of Des Plaines' east side.

Moylan is against legalizing video gambling in town, calling the nests of machines unattractive. "Rivers Casino provides enough gaming opportunities," he said.

Wilson said he's open to video gambling. "Limited video gambling would appeal to a separate unique consumer base and may not directly compete with Rivers Casino," he said.

Wilson said he'd like to see a community survey on the subject, as well as a public forum.

4th Ward

Incumbent Artur Zadrozny is being challenged by former Alderman Dick Sayad in the 4th Ward, which covers part of Des Plaines' west side.

Zadrozny said he'd vote against legalizing video gambling at local businesses. He said he doesn't like video gambling machines in restaurants and dislikes having to explain what they are to his children.

Sayad said he'd vote to allow video gambling throughout Des Plaines as long as it doesn't affect the city's development deal with Rivers. But he doubts gambling machines would attract customers at the city's restaurants or bars.

"I don't think that the restaurants we have right now would make money with video gaming," he said.

6th Ward

Former Alderman Mark Walsten and former Des Plaines School District 62 board member Brian Inzerello are facing off in the 6th Ward, which is on the southeast side.

Inzerello said the council should end the gambling ban. Let businesses decide if they want the machines, he said.

"I am in favor of small businesses having the opportunity to make their own decisions," Inzerello said.

Walsten said he'd like the city to study how expanded video gambling would affect Rivers' revenue. If the impact is minimal, he'd support allowing the machines throughout town.

8th Ward

Incumbent Shamoon Ebrahimi faces former Alderman Michael Charewicz in the 8th Ward, which is on Des Plaines' southwest side.

Ebrahimi said he's a video gambling fan but would vote against allowing it in Des Plaines because he doesn't want to jeopardize the city's relationship with Rivers.

"There seems to be a conflict there," he said.

Charewicz said he'd also vote against lifting the ban, even though he knows restaurateurs and tavern owners would love the machines.

"I don't want to upset Rivers," he said.

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