Why two towns cast opposite votes for video gambling
Two towns that sit at opposite ends of DuPage County also delivered opposite messages on video gambling Tuesday.
Roughly 57 percent of voters in Wood Dale gave a nod to allow video gambling in their city, while about 57 percent of Winfield voters want to reinstate a village ban on the machines.
Both towns initially banned video gambling, but repealed the bans early this year.
In Wood Dale, Mayor Nunzio Pulice said several restaurants, bars and the local VFW post want the machines in order to generate more revenue.
"I'm not a big fan of video gambling, but I figured we'd leave it up to the people," Pulice said.
Tuesday's referendum question to continue allowing video gambling was nonbinding, but Pulice indicated officials may have reinstated the ban if voters wanted it.
Other business owners also have approached Wood Dale officials, wanting to open establishments like sandwich shops that would have liquor licenses and gambling machines, Pulice said.
But the mayor said the city has no more liquor licenses to give, and he's leery of problems the machines could bring. Pulice is now talking with police to see what types of penalties could be imposed for violations like underage gambling, he said.
He said he wants stiff fines that could start at $3,500.
"I don't want this to become a place where people just come to gamble," Pulice said. "In this situation, less will be more. And if somebody's not following the rules, I will enforce the rules and be stern."
In Winfield, business owners weren't the only ones interesting in extra gambling revenue. Several village officials also voted to allow video gambling to create about $45,000 in estimated new revenue for the town's strapped budget.
Counties and towns that allow such gambling receive 5 percent of each machine's profit. The state will receive 25 percent, while establishment owners and terminal operators split the rest.
But Winfield residents like Harold Besch said Tuesday's election shows potential profits didn't convince voters.
"It was pretty clear people ... didn't want video gambling town," he said. "Some trustees just tuned out all the people who spoke up at meetings, so this was our way of getting our voices heard through the ballot box."
Besch also said the results were intrinsically tied to another advisory referendum Tuesday in Winfield. Residents were asked whether they should keep their police force, since some trustees have mulled letting the DuPage County Sheriff's Department patrol the town.
More than 87 percent of voters said they wanted to keep Winfield's own police force, but the results are nonbinding.
"People were afraid the police would be gone, and then on top of that video gambling would be bringing a bad element into town," Besch said. "I think people were afraid things were going to go from good to bad in a hurry."