DuPage County to revisit video gambling ban

Amid calls for a repeal of DuPage's ban on video gambling machines, county board members are going to revisit the issue.

Officials in recent months have heard from businesses and a Veterans of Foreign Wars post that would like to offer video gambling. But they've also heard from gambling opponents who want to keep the moratorium that affects more than two dozen bars, restaurants, golf courses and social clubs in unincorporated parts of the county.

In response, board members have agreed to discuss video gambling during their finance committee meeting scheduled for June 13.

"We have people asking us to look at it," county board member Jim Zay said. "So we need to have a discussion. We should at least give these people the opportunity to present their case for why we should change it. And we should give opponents the opportunity to say why they're still against it."

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

County board member Paul Fichtner, who serves as chairman of the board's finance committee, said the outcome of next month's discussion will determine whether a measure is drafted to lift the prohibition.

"We're going to give everybody an opportunity to speak to the issue," Fichtner said.

If the panel recommends repealing the ban, it still would require a final vote by the full county board.

Fichtner said he doesn't know if there's enough support on the board to pursue a repeal. "It's going to be close," he said.

If the ban is lifted, county officials estimate that around 28 liquor license holders might be eligible to apply for a video gambling license.

The county would gain between $200,000 and $250,000 a year in revenue, according to one estimate. Counties and towns that allow video gambling receive 5 percent of each machine's profit.

While towns throughout DuPage initially enacted bans, a number have since changed their minds.

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.

Some bars owners in unincorporated areas say they've lost customers to establishments where video gambling is allowed. But anti-gambling advocates say it's not the county board's responsibility to level the playing field for bars.

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