Long Grove village board hopefuls disagree on keeping video gambling
After taxes, four Long Grove restaurants and bars made about $60,000 in profits from video gambling since terminals went live last August in the sleepy downtown, the latest tallies show.
The village is experimenting with the machines in the beloved historic district though some residents argued video gambling hurts Long Grove's image as a rural retreat. A trial run trustees extended another six months is set to expire April 14.
Six candidates running for three seats in the April 7 municipal election have split into two camps, each with an incumbent and two newcomers. They disagree on whether to permanently allow video gambling.
One slate -- Trustee Charlie Wachs, Steven Sintetas and Stan Razny -- acknowledges the businesses' cut from video gambling isn't a windfall. But they say the money provides a critical shot in the arm to their bottom line during Long Grove's shopping and dining off-season after the holidays.
"Long Grove needs to have new ideas," Razny said during an endorsement interview with the Daily Herald's editorial board. "And yes, it's not a big revenue source, but it is a revenue source that's going to help pay some bills."
About $868,159 in bets were placed at a total of 18 machines spread across the four establishments from last August through this January, according to the state gaming board. The village received about $4,255 and the state, $21,279.
The terminals aren't noticeably apparent to shoppers, Sintetas said. "It's not like its standing right in front of you at the front door," he said.
Three of the four establishments with village licenses up this spring are owned by the Forsythe family and their business partners: Broken Earth Winery, Chatter Box of Long Grove and Long Grove Cafe. The exception is the Village Tavern.
Armed with signatures from Long Grove restaurateurs, Gerald Forsythe urged the village to lift the video gambling ban. Trustees first upheld the ban and then ordered the village attorney to draft an advisory question for last November's ballot. Then the board reversed course and adopted the trial run, with Wachs and Trustee Stanley Borys voting in favor.
Wachs first opposed video gambling in Long Grove, but changed his mind after talking with business owners. He now supports expanding video gambling to any new restaurants that come to town.
"They didn't destroy what I thought they might, which is the ambience if you will of Long Grove," he said of the terminals. "I'm almost amazed at how much they're used."
The other slate -- Borys, Bill Jacob and Michael Sarlitto -- says the decision on what to do after the trial run should be left to residents. Jacob suggested polling through a survey or an advisory question put on the ballot.
"Whether it degrades or somehow cheapens our Long Grove brand is something the jury's still out on," Sarlitto said. "I personally believe it probably does."
Borys said he's generally against government intruding with "matters of personal choice." But he isn't convinced that video gambling has brought more traffic to the downtown.
"The business owners have been getting mixed results with the amount of activity," he said.
Sarlitto sees video gambling as a Band-Aid solution for a downtown losing out on tourists and shoppers.
"We have a 28 percent vacancy rate downtown," said Sarlitto, citing a consultant's report. "The businesses are struggling with flat revenues, particularly the restaurants. They're looking for opportunities to grow their revenues. Do I believe video gambling is the silver bullet? Absolutely not."
He also suggested the board's decision to overturn a ban on video gambling was made in a vacuum and should have been made through the lens of a plan for the downtown.
"We don't have a compass relative to what our brand is going to be into the future," Sarlitto said.