Winfield could end video gambling ban

 
 
Updated 3/2/2012 1:40 PM

Winfield officials might take a chance on video gambling after all.

The village board on Thursday directed staff members to draft an ordinance to repeal a local ban on video gambling machines that Illinois legalized to help raise money for capital improvements.

 

Trustees are expected to vote March 15 to end the ban that's been in place since 2009, when Winfield and many other DuPage County communities opted out of the video gambling program.

"I think it's time to move on this," said Trustee James Hughes, adding that local restaurants and bars meeting the state's requirements should have the option to add the machines. "Let's make this a benefit to Winfield and trust in our establishments."

In July 2009, Gov. Pat Quinn approved a $31 billion capital improvement package that allowed video gambling. Still, towns have the ability to outlaw the machines in their communities.

At the time, Winfield officials said a local ban might be prudent because there were unanswered questions about how the state was going to regulate video gambling.

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But with four new trustees on Winfield's six-member board and the town struggling to raise money for road repairs, officials say it's time to reconsider.

Trustee Jay Olson said video gambling would generate new revenue for the village and create more customers for establishments with the machines. He said extra revenue the village receives should be spent on road repairs.

"Winfield is in a potentially strategic position where we may have an opportunity to realize greater revenues from this because it's been banned in so many other communities," Olson said.

According to the state law, counties and towns that allow video gambling will receive 5 percent of a machine's profit. The state will receive 25 percent, while establishment owners and the terminal operators evenly split the rest.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Winfield officials say four establishments in the village could be eligible to install up to five video gambling machines.

It's estimated that an establishment with the maximum of five machines could generate up to $11,250 a year for the village. So if all four Winfield locations had the devices, the village's share of the revenue could be about $45,000 annually.

One company estimates that Winfield has the potential of making tens of thousands of dollars more a year. Because so many other DuPage towns have opted out, Gaming Entertainment Management Inc. predicts Winfield would be in a "good position" to take advantage of the county's limited supply of video gaming terminals.

"We certainly could use a boost toward raising revenue," Trustee Tony Reyes said. "I think it's important to at least give it an opportunity for our businesses to make more money."

Trustee Erik Spande said he trusts the village's businesses and realizes video gambling will be heavily regulated by the state. Still, Spande pointed out that he has received phone calls from concerned residents who want "some hard discussion" to happen before the board makes its final decision. He asked that residents be given ample time to comment on March 15.

"This, to me, seems like it's rushing through kind of fast," Spande said. "I know that this is going to be a controversial issue."

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