DuPage to discuss repealing video gambling ban

With a veterans group calling for a repeal of DuPage's decade-old ban on video gambling, 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 say they need video gambling machines to generate more revenue. They want DuPage to lift its moratorium that affects more than two dozen liquor license holders in unincorporated areas.

In response, county board members have agreed to discuss video gambling during their finance committee meeting scheduled for Oct. 8.

"I just want to have a discussion with our board members and see if we have a consensus about overruling this," said Jim Zay, the Carol Stream Republican who serves as vice chairman of the county board.

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.

But this week, representatives of VFW Post 2164 said the county's gambling ban has hampered their ability to raise money to repair their 1930s-era building near Wheaton.

"That building is aging," post Cmdr. Leo Penkala said. "We try to maintain it ... but our sources of money are limited."

He said video gambling would provide much-needed revenue.

If the county doesn't lift the ban, Penkala said the post might have to sell the building, "which is a shame because it's been around for so long."

Zay said board members were worried about crime and other issues when they voted to impose the ban. But in the decade since, he said, "I don't think we've seen any major issues with video gaming."

And with the state expanding gambling, Zay said, he wants to be fair to businesses in unincorporated DuPage.

"They have to compete every day for every dollar," he said. "If the business down the street has something you can't have, that hurts your business."

Initially, only a few municipalities in DuPage allowed video gambling.

Now it's allowed in Addison, Aurora, Bensenville, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Darien, Glendale Heights, Itasca, Lombard, Oakbrook Terrace, Roselle, Villa Park, Westmont, Willowbrook, Wood Dale and Woodridge, according to the Illinois Gaming Board.

But when the idea of repealing the ban was discussed more than two years ago, board members heard from anti-gambling advocates who urged the county to keep its moratorium.

This week, two board members - Tim Elliott and Pete DiCianni - said they would vote against a repeal.

"I definitely would be a no," said DiCianni, an Elmhurst Republican.

Elliott said it's a good idea to have a formal discussion. But if the county's ban is lifted, the Glen Ellyn Republican said it would create problems for businesses in municipalities that prohibit video gambling.

The outcome of next month's discussion by the finance committee will determine whether a measure is drafted to lift DuPage's prohibition. If the panel recommends a repeal, it still would require a final vote by the full county board.

If the ban is lifted, county officials said 27 liquor license holders might be eligible to apply for a video gambling license. The county could gain roughly $275,000 a year in revenue, according to one estimate.

Tim Elliott
Pete DiCianni
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