A group of Elgin establishments and organizations plans to ask the city council next week to allow video gambling in Elgin, arguing customers and members are flocking to towns that allow the practice.
American Legion Post 57 Commander Norm Bellows said the group -- which calls itself the Elgin Video Gaming Committee -- has the support of about 40 businesses and organizations in Elgin.
Many are reporting that customers -- whether just a few or a lot -- have started to frequent establishments with video gambling machines in neighboring towns, Bellows said. That includes some Post 57 members, he said.
"Elgin is an island surrounded by cities that have video gambling," he said. "It hurts businesses. It's about having an equal playing field."
The Video Gaming Act of 2009 allows video gambling machines in licensed bars or restaurants that serve alcohol; fraternal organizations; veterans organizations and licensed truck stops. Video gambling went live across the state -- meaning machines were turned on and customers could play -- in October.
Communities that allow video gambling include: Carpentersville, East Dundee, Gilberts, Huntley, Hampshire, Pingree Grove, Lake in the Hills, South Elgin and Hoffman Estates. Video gambling is also allowed in unincorporated Kane County. West Dundee is expected to a vote on the matter in February.
Elgin Councilman John Prigge said he arranged to have the group's presentation on the agenda for the Jan. 23 council meeting.
Elgin's current ordinance bans video gambling. The council last took up the subject in July, when the consensus was to maintain the ban.
Prigge said he's had a change of heart since then.
"I fully support it," he said of video gambling. "I think we made the best decision possible back in July based on the information we had."
He now believes some Elgin businesses' survival may be at stake, he said. He's also talked to business owners outside of Elgin who say video gambling proceeds are really helping their bottom line.
"I don't want the blood of a closed local business to be on my hands when this is a fair competition scenario," he said.
Five percent of the machines' net revenue is returned to municipalities, and 25 percent goes to the state for capital improvements; the rest is split between the establishments and game operators.
Prigge also said he no longer believes video gambling would hurt Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin. Video gambling machines allowed at bars and other establishments have a $2 maximum bets, and payouts are a $500 maximum.
"I walked into Grand Victoria about three weeks ago. I walked around, I didn't play. There was nobody there I knew or recognized. When I walk into the VFW or the American Legion, it's all local people," he said.
"The casino is a destination place for gambling. The video gaming thing is local."