Video gambling rush concerns officials
By Bob Rakow Correspondent February 28, 2013 2:40PM
Updated: April 4, 2013 6:20AM
With several businesses lining up to offer video gambling, Oak Lawn officials want to look at the possibility of limiting a key ingredient in the mix — liquor.
This past week, trustees narrowly approved a liquor license for a new business, Stella’s, that plans to offer video gambling, but some officials are concerned that Oak Lawn is opening the floodgates to having many businesses offering the gambling.
Stella’s will be allowed to serve only beer and wine and will offer light appetizers, according to Gary Leff, chief executive of Laredo Hospitality Ventures. Speaking to the village board at Tuesday’s meeting, Leff estimated that the business could generate $40,000 annually in tax revenue for the village.
The Des Plaines-based company is trying to roll out small cafes under the names Maxine’s, Shelby’s and Stella’s in the Chicago suburbs. In Oak Lawn, Stella’s would be located in State Road Plaza, 87th Street and Ridgeland Avenue, in a space that has been vacant for more than a year.
Mayor Dave Heilmann cast the deciding vote on the liquor license for Stella’s, with trustees Alex Olejniczak (2nd), Tom Duhig (4th) and Tom Phelan (6th) voting against it. They raised concerns about the number of new businesses serving alcohol and offering gambling and the potential impact on Oak Lawn’s existing bars and restaurants.
“How many more gaming establishments are we going to have in Oak Lawn?” Duhig said. “Are we going to get 10 of them? It’s a big concern. I’m trying to protect what we’ve got. What’s our limit? What’s our maximum?”
Olejniczak said the village initially supported video gambling to give existing businesses another revenue source during a tough economy.
Any business that has a pour-liquor license can apply to the state for up to five video gambling machines, Illinois Gaming Board spokesman Gene O’Shea said. The board has approved 955 locations statewide, and machines are running in more than 650, he said.
Along with Stella’s, 15 other businesses in Oak Lawn have asked the gaming board to let them offer video gambling, village manager Larry Deetjen said, adding that almost all are existing businesses. Trustees agreed that the liquor license classifications should be discussed when all come up for renewal this month.
“Maybe it’s time to decide how many liquor licenses we want to allow,” Heilmann said.
Phelan raised concerns about providing more gambling opportunities in the village.
“This is about real world money,” he said. “People will win, but people will lose.”
Trustee Carol Quinlan (5th) disagreed, saying the village isn’t responsible for regulating people’s gambling habits.
“It’s not our business to tell people, ‘don’t lose your money,’” she said.
Trustee Cyndy Trautsch said if Oak Lawn turned down Stella’s liquor license request, the cafe likely would open in an adjacent town.