Village Board Split on Initial Gambling-Ban Vote

One Clarendon Hills trustee was absent Monday night, and the final vote on Sept. 4 is the only decision that will stick.

' village president and two other village trustees said they are open to allowing video gaming in town, but will need to get one more trustee on their side to defeat a proposed video-gaming ban next month.

The Village Board at its Monday night meeting split a first-consideration vote on the gaming-ban ordinance, 3-3. Village President Tom Karaba and trustees Paul Flood and Steve Wallace voted against the ban; Paul Pedersen, Ed Reid and Mary Williams voted for it.

Absent Monday was trustee Allan Alongi, who didn’t make any definitive statements about his position on the ban during the Aug. 6 meeting.

The first consideration vote is an advisory vote only; the final vote will be taken in September.

Flood and Wallace said they’re OK with leaving in place the state-granted ability of local bars and restaurants to attain video poker and other gaming machines, considering a ban could be implemented at any time if the machines had a negative impact on the village.

“I’m not a fan of [video gaming],” said Wallace, who two weeks ago seemed undecided but leaning towards supporting the ban. “But on the other hand the fear of the unknown is not, to me, justification for not trying something that might work.”

Flood said of video gaming, “I would like to see it be given an opportunity, and if there are problems that come from it as far as enforcement and regulating it, I would be happy to revisit it quickly.”

Wallace also said he wouldn’t hesitate to vote for a ban if problems arose.

Karaba weighed in on the topic for the first time and came down against a ban and responded to trustees who have said allowing the video-gaming machines goes against Clarendon Hills’ character.

“I don’t know if it’s part of our character or not, but I know we have lots and lots of people in this town that gamble in different ways,” the village president said.

Pedersen, Reid and Williams have all have spoken in favor of the ban at the board’s last two meetings, pointing to a related question on the village’s 2010 community needs survey to which 72 percent of respondents—an “overwhelming majority” according to Pedersen—said they would not want video-gaming machines in the village.

“Nothing that I’ve heard in the last two meetings would cause me to want to try to go against the wishes of 72 percent of people in town,” Reid said.

Without a ban, Clarendon Hills businesses that have a retail liquor license can purchase and feature video-gaming machines, though the machines would have to be located in an area of the establishment that is only open to people age 21 and older. 

A video-gaming ban for a non-home-rule community like Clarendon Hills must be a total ban according to state law, meaning the Village Board can't say the machines are allowed on Ogden Avenue and 55th Street, but forbidden in the central business district.

Jack Tracy owns , the first Clarendon Hills establishment to apply for video-gaming machines and, therefore, the inspiration for the proposed ban. The bar-owner said times are tough and his business would benefit from the additional revenue brought in by the machines.

He likened the machines to playing the lottery and gambling online. Tracy said even in his bar people are likely playing games of darts and video-game golf that have a round of beers or some other financial incentive on the line.

“Gambling is all around us and it’s even in the village as we speak,” Tracy said.

If he got the machines, Tracy said he would make his entire bar open only to people age 21 and older and, echoing Flood and Wallace, said he would get rid of the machines if they had a negative impact.

“If it becomes a problem, I wouldn’t want it either,” Tracy said.

Support for the allowance of video-gaming machines came from the crowd, as well. Bill Turner, a 50-year resident of Clarendon Hills and a Village Board meeting regular, said he thinks the machines are an opportunity to raise revenue for the village, and a ban isn’t in line with decisions the board makes each year to allow gambling at community functions.

“I’ve noticed people have come before your board, churches and other civic organizations, for a one-day gambling permit, and you always pass it, no questions asked,” Turner said.


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