Video gambling: Southland towns showing their cards on controversial issue
BY STEVE METSCH AND SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org June 1, 2012 11:06PM
Southland towns that have voted to allow video gambling (as of May 31):
Crete (prohibited in bowling alleys)
East Hazel Crest
Southland towns where gambling is banned, either because they opted out or had previous bans in place*
Unincorporated Cook County
Country Club Hills
*-Under a bill proposed in the Legislature, municipalities that banned gambling prior to July 13, 2009, would have to pass new laws to continue those bans. Some towns already are doing that; others on this list that previously banned gambling now are considering allowing it.
Source: Illinois Gaming Board
Places to play?
Southland establishments with applications pending with the Illinois Gaming Board, as of May 29:
Marcotte’s Bar & Grill, 15501 S. Cicero Ave., Oak Forest
3 Monkeys, 2826 Chicago Road, South Chicago Heights
Jason’s Pub, 1361 Benton St., Crete
Taqueria Atotonilco, 6922 W. 111th St., Worth
Rocco’s, 16716 W. 159th St. Lockport
Bella Mia Ristorante, Inc., 4648 W. 147th St., Midlothian
Boss’ Lounge, 148 155th St., Calumet City
Burr Oak Bowl, 3030 W. 127th St., Blue Island
Chino’s Pizzeria, Inc., 8356-58 S. Roberts Road, Justice
Cindy’s Pub, 5230 W. 159th St., Oak Forest
Cullens Pub LTD., 9953 Southwest Highway, Oak Lawn
D & D’s Tap, 14401 Sherman Ave., Posen
Halftime Lounge, 14640 Waverly Ave., Midlothian
Dan “D” Jac’s, Inc., 9358 W. 171st St., Orland Hills
Dangles Corp., 12431 S. Western Ave., Blue Island
Davern’s Tavern, 8527 W. 79th St., Justice
Duett Bar, 8348 S. Roberts Road, Justice
Durbins, 10240 S. Kedzie Ave., Evergreen Park
Goal Post Pub, 52071/2 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn
Fritz’s Ltd., 225 S. State St., Manhattan
Bit O’ Blarney Pub, 525 S. State St., Manhattan
Genos Place, 12401 S. Ashland Ave., Calumet Park
Glenwood Oaks, Inc., 106 N. Main St., Glenwood
Granny’s Place, 2838 W. 147th St., Posen
Guzzlers, Ltd., 14344 McKinley Ave., Posen
George’s Place Bar & Grill, 15745 Kedzie Ave., Markham
The Forge, 3400 W. 127th St., Blue Island
Ashbary Coffee House, 8695 Archer Ave., Unit 1, Willow Springs
Hooters, 17060 S. Torrence Ave., Lansing
Hooters, 9159 S. Cicero Ave., Oak Lawn
Dakota Inn, 12119 S. Pulaski Road, Alsip
Ing’s Palace, 8900 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview
Janosik Banquet, Inc., 9126 S. Roberts Road, Hickory Hills
Jesse’s Tavern, Inc., 10501 S. Ridgeland Ave., Chicago Ridge
Deja Brew Bar and Grille, 5219 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn
An Seanachi Irish Pub, 2825 W. Burr Oak Ave., Blue Island
Palos Hills Village Pub, 9750 S. Roberts Road, Palos Hills
The Hideaway, 13404 Olde Western Ave., Blue Island
Strike N Spare II, 811 Northern Drive, Lockport
Lucky’s Drive-In, 16200 S. Cicero Ave., Oak Forest
Mama Luigi’s Restaurant, 7500 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview
Beggar’s Pizza, 9515 W. 191st St., Mokena
Margarita’s, 19606 Burnham Ave., Lynwood
Gallagher’s Pub, 160 E. North St., Manhattan
Mr. Sullivan’s Irish Pub & Eatery, 4660 W. 147th St., Midlothian
Nickobees Banquets, 10555 Southwest Highway, Worth
Oak Forest Bowl, 15240 S. Cicero Ave., Oak Forest
Old Town Tap, Inc., 475 W. Burville Road, Crete
Chester’s Tavern, 6255 S. Archer Road, Summit
Pablo’s Taco, Inc., 12854 Western Ave., Blue Island
Jack’s Bar and Grill, 436 W. 34th St., Steger
Panast Inc., 7779 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview
The Krash, 7112 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview
PJ’s Pour House, 5635 W. 87th St., Oak Lawn
Raven’s Place, 13031 S. Western Ave., Blue Island
Melody Lounge, 7400 S. Archer Ave, Justice
Ridgewood Liquor Store & Tap, Inc., 2059 Ridge Road, Homewood
Riverside Tap, 13351 S. Aulwurm, Blue Island
Scrementi’s, 3760 Chicago Road, Steger
Side Bar 167, Inc., 16711 S. Richmond Ave., Markham
The Chieftain, 6906 W. 111th St., Worth
Stella’s on State Street, 823 S. State St., Lockport
Stonehouse Pub, 103 Stephen St., Lemont
The Outpost Pub and Grill, 14929 S. Archer Ave., Lockport
Bambino’s Family Restaurant, 37 E. 34th St., Steger
Tommy’s Place, 12237 S. Western Ave., Blue Island
Tom’s Place, 110 Stephen St., Lemont
Venetian Gardens, 6955 S. Roberts Road, Bridgeview
Willow Springs Friendly Tap, 8240 S. Archer Ave., Willow Springs
Woodbine Golf Course, 14240 W. 151st St., Homer Glen
Bottles, 439 Talcott, Lemont
Zante Lounge and Eatery, 10307 S. Roberts Road, Palos Hills
Zante Lounge of Orland, 8888 W. 159th St., Orland Park
Beecher Veterans Association, 532 Gould St., Beecher
Bridgeview Memorial AMVETS Post 192, 7731 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview
Chicago Heights American Legion Post No. 131, 2701 Chicago Road, South Chicago Heights
Hometown-Murray VFW 9773, 9092 S. Main St., Hometown
Marrs Meyer American Legion Post 991, 11001 S. Depot St., Worth
Midlothian Memorial VFW Post 2580, 14817 S. Pulaski Road, Midlothian
Source: Illinois Gaming Board
Updated: July 6, 2012 8:44AM
Trying to guess what the future holds for video gambling in the Southland is like trying to guess which cards a fellow poker player is holding.
Some towns are going all in and allowing it, not knowing whether the result will be a royal flush or pair of 2s. Some never took a seat at the table, citing moral or financial concerns in banning it. Some towns still are mulling their options.
Not all the state cards have been dealt yet, either. The Illinois Gaming Board has hundreds of applications pending from establishments and organizations willing to install video gaming terminals. There has been confusion over whether towns with old laws banning gambling would have to create new ordinances to prevent it. Perhaps most important, no one seems capable of declaring with any certainty how big of a pot is at stake statewide.
The murky picture still exists even though the Video Gaming Act became state law in July 2009.
In short, the law allows establishments where alcohol is served for consumption (as opposed to carry-out), plus licensed fraternal and veterans establishments, and truck stops, to conduct video gambling. It also allows municipalities to opt out and ban it.
There is no deadline for municipalities to decide on the issue. In the towns that will allow video gambling, terminals could be installed as early as August, pending background checks on applicants, officials said.
Millions of dollars in tax revenue — from $375 million to $500 million — could come from up to 75,000 machines statewide, proponents say, though many local officials scoff at those estimates.
Hundreds of applicants for licenses to have video machines already are listed on the Illinois Gaming Board website. Once an application is filed, the review process begins, including a criminal background check, gaming board spokesman Gene O’Shea said. And a centralized computer system, run by Georgia-based Scientific Games, that would monitor revenue from all the machines — “how much goes in and how much goes out,” O’Shea said — should be up and running by August. That project had to be re-bid, he said, which delayed things a bit.
The nearly 3-year-old law was passed as a way to create revenue for a $31 billion state capital improvement program. Some towns had concerns that if they banned video gambling, they wouldn’t get state funds to fix their roads.
“At this point, it’s not tied to that,” said Ed Paesel, executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. “It doesn’t matter if they participate or not. The funding is still available. The issue is if enough towns don’t participate, will there be less money to do the capital projects, and how do they prioritize which community or which project gets the money?”
Paesel said many towns just need the extra revenue either way.
“You’ve got legalized gambling, and people are going to gamble,” he said. “(Some towns) think, ‘Why shouldn’t our community take advantage of that?’ ”
The law calls for the gaming vendor and the host establishment to each get 35 percent of profits, with the state getting 25 percent and the local municipality 5 percent.
Thanks, but no thanks
The Tinley Park Village Board is expected to vote to ban video gambling when it meets Tuesday. That’s fine with Mayor Ed Zabrocki.
“Yes, we understand the benefits for a local merchant,” Zabrocki said. “But we’d still rather not get involved in the whole gambling thing.”
Zabrocki argued there is a difference between video gambling and patronizing the proliferation of Illinois lottery machines that can be found at gas stations, convenience stores and grocers.
“You don’t sit in front of a lottery machine for two hours, right next to an ATM,” he said.
The village passed a gambling ban in 1984, but a pending bill in the Legislature would void gambling bans enacted before July 13, 2009, so some towns have since passed new bans.
Officials in nearby Orland Park and Homer Glen aren’t fans of video gambling, either.
“It creates a lot of issues,” Homer Glen Mayor Jim Daley said. “No. 1 is enforcement, and our contracted police department would have to take all the complaints on issues related to the gambling machines. The fact is that the financial arrangement is terrible for the communities that takes it on. We’d get 5 percent from these machines. We’d be the smallest receiver of anyone getting funds, and we’d be taking on 100 percent of the problems.”
Daley foresees problems regarding terminal usage, too.
“If someone is standing there, waiting to use a machine, someone else may be there blowing his paycheck on the machine. What do you do? Do you have a meter that allows someone to play it x amount of time? What if a guy wants to sit there for three hours, and the guy behind him wants to play the game? How long do you get to play before the next patron gets to play the game?” Daley said.
To keep underage people away from the games, some businesses might have to build additions where the games could be housed “within the confines of the law,” Daley said.
He also worries gambling addicts will suffer.
“I go to the boats once a year. Ask a dealer how they know some people by their first name. They’ll tell you that 60 percent are there three times a week,” he said, adding he wonders why the state wants to take on video gambling “when it has so many other issues.”
Orland Park trustees voted to prohibit video gambling in December, 2009, citing adverse impacts on residents, the potential for corruption, the cost for law enforcement, regulatory difficulties and high social costs.
According to the minutes of that village board meeting, Mayor Dan McLaughlin, who voted to ban gambling, said video gambling would not make Orland Park a better place, and banning it would not put anyone out of business. He cited studies that claimed there were $3 in costs for every $1 of revenue, along with increases in bankruptcies, foreclosures, crimes and addiction.
“Trustees were against it when the state first passed it and their position has not changed,” assistant village manager Christopher McDonnell said.
Game on in Oak Forest
On the other side of the issue is Oak Forest Mayor Hank Kuspa, who looks forward to the day when he can play video poker at Oliver’s, Cindy’s, Mrs. O’Brien’s or other establishments in the city.
“I’m for it. I have many friends who travel to the casinos in Hammond or Joliet. Why not allow local businesses in Oak Forest to benefit from this?” he said. “We have some very nice little neighborhood bars that can benefit. It’s legal. Why not allow them to have legal video gaming machines?
“I do not want to take that opportunity away from a local business. I want to give my businesses a chance to be able to compete. I want to give them the opportunity to generate a little more revenue for themselves that’s legal and makes a couple bucks for the city, too.”
He said objections based on morality are moot because the state allows gambling.
“The lottery is gambling. That’s legal. I’m not here to tell someone what to do or not. But if it’s legal, and it is, why not give Oak Forest an opportunity to participate?” Kuspa said. “I’m sure there will be some people in the community who feel this is gambling and somehow immoral, but if it’s legal in the state, it should be legal in the city of Oak Forest.”
Kuspa said that unlike Tinley Park, Orland Park, Oak Lawn and other towns with big-box retailers, Oak Forest and similar communities “are looking for additional tax revenue” promised by video gambling.
Another fan is Glenwood Mayor Kerry Durkin, who said it was “too much money to ignore” when explaining why the board unanimously passed an ordinance May 15 to allow gambling.
“Even if it $15,000, who would say no to it?” he said.
Durkin said the village also will be “getting rid of a nuisance” in what are called “amusement-only” machines.
“How do you know if those were being used for amusement only or not?” Durkin said. “That’s a big plus that everyone is missing.”
Now, everyone will get a cut of the money, he said, calling it “a win-win.”
In addition to receiving 5 percent of the revenues, the village also will get $100 for a license fee per machine, Durkin said.
“Men and women have been gambling since its inception. You’re not going to get rid of it. You might as well tax it and identify the money,” Durkin said.
Case against the state
Frankfort officials have banned video gambling for reasons that include moral and social objections.
“The board thought the actual legislation was not well thought-out,” village administrator Jerry Ducay said. “The state approved the idea first and said the regulations would come later. Something that is such a big issue should have been better defined, and the local government should have been given more control over it.”
He said that if villages control liquor licenses and tobacco sales, they should be allowed “to decide where to place these machines.”
“There’s not much revenue from it. The financing is askew,” Ducay said. “The state is not getting enough. If the whole purpose of it was to fund the capital bill, why are they not getting a bigger share than 25 percent?”
New Lenox also has an old gambling ban in place, but the board is expected to vote June 11 to continue the ban. Mayor Tim Baldermann said although local businesses would benefit, he wouldn’t be eager to do business with Springfield.
“It’s another scheme for them, instead of trying to balance the budget. I am not interested in helping Springfield balance the budget,” Baldermann said.
The state’s lousy “track record” on paying bills riles Baldermann.
“The state is not to be trusted. Why should we do business with them?” he said.
His village’s 5 percent share would amount to $150,000 per year, according to the state, but Baldermann said that estimate is “rosy” and based on all eligible businesses installing the maximum five gambling terminals.
“It will be substantially less than that,” he said.
Most interest in allowing gambling in New Lenox has come from the VFW and American Legion.
“They could benefit the most from it. I wish we could grant it just for them, but we can’t,”
Baldermann said. “There’s not a lot of appetite for it. You can go 10 minutes down the road and go to the (gambling) boats (in Joliet). You don’t have to go to Vegas any more. We don’t need to put machines in bars.”
As a former police chief in Chicago Ridge, Baldermann has heard stories about husbands blowing their paychecks on the machines. He also has closed places down and had illegal machines confiscated.
“Yes, it brings headaches. Yes, it could cause some issues,” Baldermann said. “Personally, I feel that the majority of people playing these games are the last ones who should be playing.”
Wait and see
Mokena has an old law banning gambling but has been waiting to see whether lawmakers pass House Bill 4466, which would basically void bans passed before July 13, 2009, while allowing towns to opt out by passing new bans. The bill was under consideration in the Senate when the spring session adjourned last week.
“The board wants to know where the sidewalk is going first,” village administrator John Downs said.
Meanwhile, Downs said, trustees have been “open to input” and have heard from businesses on both sides of issue.
Will County, which would have jurisdiction over unincorporated areas, has no ban on the books and no apparent support for one now, according to board member Cory Singer, of Frankfort.
He said he tried to bring up the issue a few years ago, but there was no support for banning video gambling then, either. The issue has not been up for discussion.
“I believe we should ban it,” Singer said. “This says the state has no other creative ideas than to put unmonitored gambling in bars and taverns. This is about as low as it gets. How can this turn into prosperity?”