Campton Hills video gambling proponents see progress despite referendum result
Nearly 54 percent of voters in Campton Hills weighed in against allowing video gambling in the village in this week's election, but Trustee Nick Girka doesn't necessarily see it as a defeat for business owners.
"It was a tremendous victory for the businesses," said Girka, who supports video gambling. "Moving the points that far on something that's considered so contentious is an amazing accomplishment.
According to unofficial results, 649 voters, or 53.7 percent, voted "no" on video gambling in the nonbinding, advisory referendum, while 546 supported the measure.
In November 2012, the first time the issue was put to a nonbinding vote, nearly 70 percent of voters -- 4,012 -- said "no," compared to 1,455 "yes" tallies.
In 2012, voter turnout was 74.3 percent for the presidential election; this week, 13.9 percent of registered voters went to the polls. The difference of 103 votes in Tuesday's ballot question was encouraging and at the same time frustrating for Kim Weiss, a staff member at Old Towne Pub and Eatery in Campton Hills.
Employees there and The Lodge on 64 held informational meetings to educate voters during the campaign, but many patrons for each establishment who might have favored video gambling came from other towns.
Weiss and other proponents had noted that video gambling is allowed in surrounding towns, it would produce revenue for the village, and it's another entertainment option that is far from a full-blown casino. When Campton Hills was incorporated 11 years ago, village leaders pledged to not have a local village property tax and to rely on other funding sources, proponents said.
"Are we going to look to the future or look to the past?" Weiss said. "If you own a business, you want to grow, you want to expand and to get people out your way. It's not a level playing field. To me, any town could use more revenue."
Village trustees were set for a vote on whether to allow video gambling earlier this year, but they tabled it until April 16 and instead authorized the nonbinding ballot question. The village has not issued an agenda yet for its April 16 meeting.
Girka said officials estimated video gambling could bring $10,000 to $13,000 to the village each year, and he noted surrounding towns have experienced no jumps in crime or police calls related to video gambling.
He said trustees have governed "very frugally."
"Yes, we need more revenue, but it was never about that. It's about supporting businesses," Girka said.
Darlene Bakk, who was elected to a trustee seat this week and will take office in May, said she was pleased residents had another chance to weigh in on the issue. "I would not go to a place that has (video) gambling," she said.
Trustee Wendy K. White-Eagle, who was re-elected Tuesday, said this week's results show her community views on the issue are changing and trustees must be mindful of building diverse revenue streams.
"It could have a positive impact on the economic community and that benefits every single resident of Campton Hills," she said.