Tinley Park switching stance on video gambling
By Mike Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org December 17, 2013 11:10PM
Tinley Park appears ready to reverse a long-standing ban on gambling and is considering allowing the video terminals in village businesses. | File photo
Updated: January 19, 2014 11:56AM
In a move that appears to end long-standing opposition to gambling in the village, Tinley Park trustees on Tuesday night moved toward allowing video gambling at bars, restaurant and other establishments with liquor licenses.
The mayor and village board have stood fast in opposition to video gambling since it began in October 2012, but they have had a change of view and agreed Tuesday to have the village attorney draft an ordinance that would allow the machines in the village. The ordinance could be approved at the board’s Jan. 7 meeting.
The village conservatively estimates that it could receive between $180,000 and $300,000 annually by allowing video gambling.
In March, Mayor Ed Zabrocki indicated that the village board would review its stance on video gambling, telling the SouthtownStar that the machines were “more fashionable now” and that trustees wouldn’t rule out looking at video gambling as a new revenue stream. Zabrocki was not at Tuesday’s board meeting.
A few business owners and members of nonprofit groups, including the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, have told village officials they are at an “unfair advantage” financially because video gambling is allowed in neighboring towns, Trustee David Seaman said.
“The concerns that have been raised have some merit in terms of a level playing field,” he said after Tuesday’s meeting.
Businesses and other establishments licensed to allow on-premise consumption of alcohol could install up to five gambling machines and would pay Tinley Park an annual license fee of $1,000 per machine, according to the proposed ordinance. There are 53 such licenses in the village, but officials don’t expect every business eligible for video gambling to pursue it.
Some restaurants that are national chains likely would have franchise agreements barring them from allowing gambling, while some businesses might not have enough room to meet state-specified space requirements, village manager Scott Niehaus told the village board in a Dec. 5 memo.
The high license fee also could deter some businesses from installing the machines, Seaman said.
“We think the $1,000 fee will make it a business decision,” he said. “It will make a business owner think twice.”
If the ordinance were approved, it would take as long as nine months for businesses to have the gambling machines operating, and licensing and background checks would be the state’s responsibility, according to the village.
The Legislature approved video gambling in 2009, but it took about three years to implement the regulatory system and approve machine distributors and operators. Communities such as Tinley Park had to enact new regulations to “opt out” of the state law.
In June 2012, village trustees approved an ordinance prohibiting video gambling machines. But video gambling has grown fast in popularity this year, and neighboring towns, such as Oak Forest and Orland Hills, have realized thousands of dollars in new revenue.
While some communities were worried that allowing video gambling might result in increased crime, Tinley Park Police Chief Steve Neubauer said in a village memo that he’s talked to his counterparts in suburbs where the machines are allowed and none report any corresponding rise in crime.
“Many chiefs related that the gaming has been financially good for their villages,” Neubauer said in the memo, adding that he has “no law enforcement basis to oppose video gaming.”