Winfield leaders say video gambling will help fix roads

Updated 8/26/2011 5:10 PM
  • Tony Reyes

    Tony Reyes

Winfield leaders say the village should go all-in on video gambling in bars -- and use the new revenue stream to help fund road repairs.

Trustee Tony Reyes said Friday the idea could potentially add $40,000 in revenue through sales tax receipts that could be diverted into the village's street repair fund.

Reyes said he appears to have the support among other village board members and that he expects the issue to come up at a meeting soon. However, he said the only way he would make the move was if the added money were earmarked for streets.

"I would only vote in favor of it if it were allocated specifically to road repair," Reyes said. "I am not in favor of wasting any more new revenue on pet projects, silly studies or things that are unnecessary, such as the Riverwalk. We need to give every new revenue source to road repair."

In November, voters turned down a plan to provide money for immediate fixes and establish a road maintenance fund. Ever since, some trustees have been trying to find new revenue streams to divert to road repairs.

Village President Deb Birutis has previously estimated that half of the village's roads are in poor to failing condition.

The village board essentially doubled its roadwork fund for 2011-2012 to $645,000 this summer.

Trustee Tim Allen tried three times at an Aug. 4 meeting to reallocate revenue to road repairs. But each attempt failed.

Trustee Jim Hughes voted against those efforts because, he said, doing so would have put the village in a bind if emergency situations arose. However, Hughes is on board with the video gambling push, as long as all additional revenue gets put into the road maintenance fund.

"Even if it's $20,000, $30,000, to $60,000, it's new revenue," he said. "We have to look at that."

In June, the state allowed the Illinois Gaming Board to issue licenses to establishments interested in installing video gaming machines.

Reyes said the machines would draw people to the businesses and sales tax revenue would increase. He said bringing gambling on a small scale to Winfield would not be detrimental to the village.

"The state runs the biggest gambling house in the state, the lottery," he said. "To allow video gaming, it would be a small-scale operation. It's like saying we are not going to allow bingo at the VFW."