Wheeling remaining open to video gambling cafes

Updated 9/14/2018 4:55 PM

Video gambling cafes are here to stay in Wheeling -- for now.

The village board debated this week whether it should reinstate a cap on the businesses similar to Stella's Place, which for years had the only three licenses for a gambling cafe. In April, trustees voted to remove the cap, leading to a steady line of business owners applying to open their own gambling cafes. Two more gambling cafes have been approved since the cap was removed, while several others were denied.


That has raised concerns about saturating the market and even fostering gambling addiction among residents.

Trustee David Vogel argued that the cap should be reinstated.

"If our intent is to become the Las Vegas of the Midwest, let's just open it up and get anybody who walks in the door a license to do it," Vogel said. "But I don't think the residents want that, and I don't think we as a group should want that."

However, others contend that the market will level itself out.

"If people aren't pressing that button, spinning that wheel, pulling that lever, they will pack up and go away and it will go away," Trustee Mary Papantos said.

In addition to the five video gambling cafes, the village also has about 14 bars and restaurants with the machines. According to a Daily Herald analysis of 58 suburban communities that allow gambling, Wheeling has about one machine for every 594 residents. That ranked the village 44th in the analysis.

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Trustee Ray Lang argued that the cap forced business owners to produce a better product.

A video gambling cafe can have a maximum of 30 seats, and at least half its gross revenue must be from food and beverages. The primary business is video gambling.

Restaurants with video gambling must have a minimum of 30 seats and serve lunch or dinner at least five days a week.

"I'm very much in favor of a cap in this particular case," Lang said. "These facilities were forced to provide a better product, better amenities and restaurant options to comply."

Ultimately, the village board decided against reinstating the cap.

Village President Pat Horcher and trustees Mary Krueger, Mary Papantos and Joe Vito opposed the cap. Trustees Ken Brady, David Vogel and Ray Lang supported the cap.

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