Businesses urge DuPage County to lift video gambling ban

Updated 4/12/2017 1:57 PM
  • Some businesses have asked DuPage County to lift its nearly eight-year ban on video gambling machines in unincorporated parts of the county.

    Some businesses have asked DuPage County to lift its nearly eight-year ban on video gambling machines in unincorporated parts of the county. Daily Herald file photo

Almost eight years after DuPage became the first county in the state to ban video gambling machines, some businesses and a Veterans of Foreign Wars post are calling for the prohibition to be repealed.

But county officials also are hearing from anti-gambling advocates who want DuPage to keep its moratorium, which affects more than two dozen restaurants, bars and golf courses in unincorporated areas.

Representatives from several establishments have attended the past two county board meetings to voice their desire to offer video gambling for patrons. The list includes VFW Post 2164, which is trying to raise money to repair its building near Wheaton.

"Without a way of securing new revenue sources, Wheaton Post 2164 will be at risk of leaving the community," post Cmdr. Leo Penkala said.

Penkala on March 28 urged county board members to allow video gambling in unincorporated areas.

It came as no surprise to county board Chairman Dan Cronin, who says he's heard over the past two years from several liquor license holders who are "frustrated" with DuPage's ban.

"They think they are at a competitive disadvantage," Cronin said.

Illinois legalized video gambling in 2009. However, towns and counties were able to opt out and DuPage enacted its ban in August 2009 after officials cited possible social problems.

Towns throughout DuPage initially followed the county's lead, but in recent years a number of municipalities have repealed their bans.

DuPage towns that allow video gambling are Addison, Aurora, Bensenville, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Darien, Glendale Heights, Itasca, Oakbrook Terrace, Roselle, Villa Park, Westmont, Willowbrook, Wood Dale and Woodridge, according to the Illinois Gaming Board.

Because of the county ban, the owners of JT's Porch Saloon & Eatery say their Lombard-area business is losing customers to establishments where video gambling is allowed.

"There's money being spent," co-owner Jeremy Truex said. "Why not give people the opportunity to spend it in unincorporated DuPage County?"

Truex asked county board members to at least discuss video gambling.

But Cronin said that won't happen unless board members want to revisit the topic.

"You're going to have to find a board member who wants to carry the torch for this issue," Cronin said. "As far as I know, there isn't anybody who has taken on that role at this point."

Meanwhile, several gambling opponents attended Tuesday's county board meeting to urge officials to leave the ban in place.

"This board has no duty to level the playing field for bars," said Kathy Gilroy, an anti-gambling advocate from Villa Park. "This board has a duty to the welfare of county residents -- not just liquor licensees desiring to make money from customers who lose their money in a slot machine."

Counties and municipalities that allow video gambling receive 5 percent of each machine's profit. The state takes 25 percent, while establishment owners and the terminal operators evenly split the rest.

County board member Robert Larsen said he believes it would be difficult to repeal DuPage's ban.

"I understand some private entities like the VFWs would like to have the revenue," Larsen said. "But where that money comes from tends to be from folks who can least afford it. I just don't think it's a good way to raise money for these organizations."

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