Others not following Elburn’s lead

By on September 18, 2009

St. Charles, Geneva mayors say cities not considering similar video gambling ban
by Martha Quetsch
ELBURN—Elburn was the first local municipality to address the issue of the state’s legalization of video gambling this summer, with its officials deciding Sept. 8 to ban the activity from the village. Meantime, other area municipal boards are not considering a ban in their towns, their leaders said.

Without a ban, bars, restaurants and clubs with liquor licenses may now install video poker and blackjack machines for gambling, up to five per establishment, under the state law enacted in July.

Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said unless a public outcry occurs against video gambling in city establishments, city officials will not consider a ban.

“We have no plan to discuss it unless it’s brought up via a grassroots group opposing video gambling,” Burns said.

The state imposes a 30 percent tax on the net income from each video gambling machine in a business. Of that tax, one sixth goes to the municipality.

Burns said he personally does not favor having video gambling in Geneva, but said it is not his decision to make. If residents objected to it, the City Council would decide whether to pass a ban.

Although video gambling would produce some revenue for Geneva, it also would present enforcement challenges, Burns said. Under the video gambling law, enforcement is the responsibility of the Illinois Gaming Board; local police are not involved in enforcement of video gambling rules and regulations. Among those is that no one under age 21 may use the gambling machines.

Burns said he objects to the state’s passage of a law with no local enforcement mechanism.

In Elburn, two of six Elburn trustees voted against the video gambling ban. Trustee Jerry Schmidt said offering video gambling would be a pro-growth measure for the village and other area towns have not banned it. Gordon Dierschow also opposed the ban.

Maple Park Village President Kathy Curtis said her Village Board has not talked about the issue of legalized video gambling yet and whether it is something the village wants. She said it might be on a future board agenda for discussion.

Trustees in favor of the Elburn ban said they were concerned that the state might disallow video gambling bans later, after establishments have already purchased the machines and offered the activity.

The state has not formalized the rules and regulations for video gambling yet.

St. Charles Mayor Don DeWitte said he is not concerned that the state might disallow a ban in the future after businesses already have commenced the activity.

So far, DeWitte said St. Charles officials are taking a wait-and-see approach before making a decision about whether to ban video gambling in the city, he said.

“While it (video gambling) does have some local revenue benefit, there are no assurances that any of the state revenues would stay in the individual communities,” Dewitte said. “By the same token, if a community were to ban it, do they risk losing any potential revenues for local projects that may be generated? There are still too many unanswered questions.”