DeKALB – The DeKalb City Council will hold a public hearing on legalizing video gambling at its July 23 meeting.
But any proposed ordinance will be more restrictive than what the state currently allows. State lawmakers voted in 2009 to allow only bars, truck stops and fraternal/veterans organizations with liquor licenses to have the terminals.
A number of aldermen expressed interest in further restricting who can get those licenses at their Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night.
Third Ward Alderwoman Kristen Lash said she does not want restaurants such as Applebee’s to have video gambling terminals. And if the number of sites are going to be restricted, legalizing video gambling might not be worth it, Lash suggested.
“It’s not something from a moral or practical standpoint I can support at this rate,” Lash said.
Seventh Ward Alderwoman Monica O’Leary questioned the wisdom of having video gambling available at a time when people are already hurting for money because of the economy.
Lash and O’Leary were the only ones who voted against bringing the issue up for consideration.
City officials projected that each terminal would generate $11,500 a year in tax revenue, and that the maximum amount of revenue DeKalb could earn would be between $150,000 to $200,000 a year. Those projected revenues would drop if the city restricts which businesses can get it.
State law divides up who gets the net revenue after the payouts are made. Thirty-five percent of the revenue goes to the host establishment, 35 percent goes to the terminal operator, 25 percent to the state and the remaining 5 percent to the city.
Fourth Ward Alderman Brendon Gallagher voiced his support for bringing video gambling to DeKalb, noting that it could bring some money to the city.
“As far as the actual concept, I say we start small and go into it,” Gallagher said.
But even a number of aldermen who voted for bringing the issue to a public hearing expressed reservations Monday.
Sixth Ward Alderman Dave Baker said he was uncomfortable with having terminals that could be accessed by individuals younger than 21, especially if it’s in a restaurant that anyone can enter.
Police Chief Eugene Lowery noted that, because the law ties a business’s video gambling license with its
liquor license, they are more inclined to abide by state law.
“Business owners take a little bit of a risk. It could impact their state liquor license as well as their city license,” Lowery said.
When asked what role local police would play, Lowery said the Illinois Gaming Board has sole regulatory authority in regard to the machines.
According to the IGB, 11 establishments in DeKalb County have applied for video
gambling licenses. Three of those locations are in the city – KJ’s Tap, 518 E. Lincoln Highway, American Legion Post No. 66, 1204 S. 4th St., and Mardi Gras Lanes, 1730 Sycamore Road.
The city also approved a plan to hire five more firefighters in an effort to save between $180,000 and $211,000 a year in overtime costs. The city has projected it will spend $3.8 million in overtime if the fire department maintains current staffing levels until Fiscal Year 2017.
But if the firefighters are hired by the beginning of Fiscal Year 2014, the city expects to save $817,000 over the next five fiscal years, even as the costs in wages, pensions and insurance rise as a result of the new hires.