DuPage County lifts ban on video gambling
One decade after DuPage became the first county in Illinois to ban video gambling, the county board has repealed the prohibition.
The board voted 11-6 on Tuesday to lift the ban after a discussion about how it has affected more than two dozen liquor license holders, including bars and restaurants, in unincorporated areas.
In recent months, county officials heard from business owners and leaders of a Veterans of Foreign Wars post that said they needed video gambling machines to generate more revenue.
"Our unincorporated restaurants, bars, or other liquor license holders were at a disadvantage to their neighboring municipal establishments," county board member Jim Zay said in a statement.
The Carol Stream Republican, who serves as vice chairman of the board, said there were instances where restaurants across the street from each other were held to different standards because of the ban.
"By repealing this ban, we've created a level playing field for unincorporated businesses," Zay said.
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.
This time, several board members said there have been no major issues with video gambling.
"I generally don't think government should choose which vices we allow adults to use," said Ashley Selmon, an Addison Democrat. "People are going to gamble regardless. If they have a better, legal option to do that, it will be great."
Still, six Republican board members voted against the repeal: Grant Eckhoff of Wheaton, Tim Elliott of Glen Ellyn, Pete DiCianni of Elmhurst, Sean Noonan of Elmhurst, Jim Healy of Naperville and Robert Larsen of Wheaton.
Larsen said he has seen the negative impacts of gambling. And while lifting the ban will generate revenue for the county, he said, "not all revenue is good revenue."
"I don't think it's right for DuPage County," he said.
Elliott said he's concerned that lifting the ban will create problems for businesses in municipalities that prohibit video gambling.
"The two largest municipalities in my district -- Wheaton and Glen Ellyn -- have banned video gaming," Elliott said. "What are you going to do to them when you allow video gaming in every unincorporated area that borders them?"
The county has 27 liquor license holders that may be eligible to apply for a video gambling license.
Zay said the county has fewer liquor license holders than it once had because several businesses have agreed to be annexed into municipalities that allow video gambling.
"This is about helping our small businesses," he said.
Under state law, unincorporated businesses that have a valid liquor license may apply for a video gambling license through the state. Each establishment may install up to six video gambling terminals at their facility.
The county could gain roughly $275,000 a year in revenue, according to one estimate.