SYCAMORE – The Sycamore City Council was split Monday on allowing video gambling in the city before deciding to address the issue at a later date.
Aldermen Greg Taylor, Pete Paulsen, Janice Tripp and Rick Kramer supported overturning the city’s ban on video gambling. Aldermen Alan Bauer, Gary Waight, Chuck Stowe and Steve Braser were cool to the idea and wanted to put off the decision to see how it affects other communities first.
The video gaming machines are expected to go live as early as August after years of delay after the state’s approval of the gambling terminals in 2009 to fund a $31 billion capital construction program.
Paulsen said allowing video gaming made sense because it would be up to each individual bar, lodge or veterans club to implement the machines. He noted games such as the lottery are available in gas stations and grocery stores.
“You can drop anywhere from $1 to 20 bucks on a Lotto ticket 24 hours a day, so what’s the big deal?” Paulsen asked. “It’s a business decision.”
Taylor agreed and said the City Council should at least give city businesses the option.
“I don’t want to legislate morality,” he said. “I don’t think its our job to prohibit something like this.”
Waight and Bauer contend the gambling option would have little negative or positive effect on businesses, and there are nearby options for people looking to gamble.
Sycamore Mayor Ken Mundy supported that thought, saying he talked to a local bar owner who was “lukewarm” to the idea and likely would not pursue a machine. He said it would be smart for the council to wait, likely until January, to address the issue again.
“We’ve got to deal with facts,” Mundy said. “That’s the best way to approach this.”
Paulsen countered with a conversation he had with a local bar owner when the state initially approved video gaming. The owner believed business would suffer if surrounding communities such as DeKalb offered the service and Sycamore did not.
Under the plan, revenues from the machines would be taxed at a rate of 30 percent – 25 percent going to the state and 5 percent going to the local municipality.
With five terminals allowed at each eligible establishment and licensing fees for each machine, the city could see about $2,500 per device.
The council also heard an annual report from Sarah Tobias, executive director of the Sycamore Public Library.
The library’s usage is increasing with 121,037 people served in 2011 and 193,256 items checked out. The number of cardholders increased to 12,509 people, and 820 new cards were issued.
The library also had 307 events attracting 6,769 people. One of the stronger programs has been “Toddler Time,” which attracts about 50 people every week and gives children between 18 months and 2 years old the chance to socialize and learn with each other.
“We have great programs. We get kids involved in doing all kinds of different things,” Tobias said. “We’re very pleased with the number of people coming in.”
Tobias said the library needs to reach full funding for the ongoing remodeling project and asked for approval to pursue a loan to cover the $287,000 difference. The remodeling and exterior improvements cost $731,000, with $125,000 coming from a state grant.
The library has committed $319,00 in special reserve money and impact fee revenue to the project. The loan would be for $405,000 and mature over 15 years. It would absorb the library’s existing loan and reduce monthly payments from $3,000 to $2,700.
The council may approve it at the July 2 meeting.