SYCAMORE – Video gambling will be allowed in city bars and fraternal organizations after the majority of City Council members agreed it was not their role to protect residents from themselves.
Alderman Greg Taylor voiced the common theme among his colleagues, saying there are many societal ills such as cigarettes, alcohol and overeating that can hurt people and are legal because it is not government’s role to tell people how to live.
“I don’t have as much control as I would like when it comes to food,” he said as an example of personal choice. “But people need to be responsible for their own actions.”
Taylor was joined by Steve Braser, Rick Kramer, Janice Tripp and Chuck Stowe in a 5-2 vote for video gambling. Aldermen Gary Waight and Alan Bauer voted against; Pete Paulsen was absent.
Stowe followed up Taylor’s comments by saying the government’s role in this situation is to regulate, just as it does with alcohol and drugs. Limits such as where the terminals can be located and age restrictions will help keep some control over the gambling, he said.
Tripp echoed the sentiments of Taylor and Stowe.
“Every time there is a new law that takes away freedom of choice … it’s not right,” she said. “I do not want to tell people how to spend their money.”
The affirmative vote did not come without one last push from residents who did not want to see video gambling in the city. Five of the seven people who addressed the City Council before the vote spoke against gambling and potential dangers.
Both pastors from Sycamore United Methodist Church spoke about the addiction and poverty problems gambling bring to residents. Pastor Harlene Harden called it another obstacle for people looking to work out of a tough economy.
“This would be another barrier to individuals being able to accomplish what they want to do in the community,” she said.
Only bars and clubs would be allowed to have up to five video gaming terminals and Sycamore Mayor Ken Mundy pointed out only five of Sycamore’s 10 bars expressed interest along with the Moose Lodge, Elk’s Lodge and veterans’ post.
Mundy also said the council could always prohibit gambling again in the future, but it should come down to personal responsibility.
“We won’t hesitate, for just cause, to end it,” Mundy said. “But it really does come down to personal responsibility.”
City Manager Brian Gregory said it is still unclear when machines could be activated as the state is dealing with a backlog. If the city sees expected participation and the state stays true to its revenue sharing formula, Sycamore could net $99,000 annually, according to city estimates.