Oak Lawn trustees talk 'gaming cafes'

Liquor licenses would allow delis, etc., to apply for gambling permits

By Laura Bollin

The Oak Lawn Village Board is considering granting liquor licenses to delis, cafes and other such businesses in order to make those establishments eligible for video gambling permits.

The board on Tuesday discussed the possibility of what members called "video gaming cafes." The concept is possible because any business that holds a liquor license can apply for a video gambling license that permits it to have as many as five gaming machines such as video poker and slots.

Trustees are divided on the issue: some argued it would bring new revenue into the village, while others are concerned it would lead to neighborhoods overrun with video gaming establishments, and possibly gambling addictions. Oak Lawn garners 5 cents per every dollar wagered and lost on gaming machines in the village.

Trustee Cynthia Trautsch is worried more and more businesses would apply for gambling licenses.

"Way back when the Illinois department of whatever decided to approve gambling, we had many, many bar owners come and beg us to please allow video gaming, because it was an opportunity t to make a couple extra bucks," Trautsch said. "Now we are becoming inundated with cafes and bistros that want to have not only food but gambling.

"I think we as a board need to decide, do we cap these at a certain amount? Do we look at a different type of license for them? For example, if over 51 percent of their income isn't food, they have a different classification?"

Trustee Carol Quinlan agreed that a different classification is a good idea, but believes video gaming could be a source of revenue for the village. Restaurants and cafes that offer video gaming could help "dilapidated" areas town, Quinlan said. "The problem is, for instance, at 103rd and Central, it is so blighted over there, Quinlan said. "In feedback from residents, when I've asked how do you feel about it, they say, 'I would rather see businesses coming in and generating money for Oak Lawn than how it looks right now.'"

Quinlan has reviewed at a report from the Illinois Gaming Board that showed the amounts of money video gaming machines in Oak Law earned in October, November and December, she said. One establishment collected $335 in gaming revenues in October, more than $1,000 in November and in excess of $2,000 in December, she said.

"There are 21 [businesses] right now that [have applied for] licenses," Quinlan said. "Twentyone places at $2,000, we're talking about over $500,000 for the village every year."

Villa Park resident Kathy Gilroy, who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, and Trustee Tom Phelan cautioned against gambling addiction.

"The more accessible gambling is, the more likely those who try it will become addicted to it," Gilroy said. "At a 1-percent addiction rate, which 570 Oak Lawn neighbors are you willing to sacrifice on the altar of profit? Slots could arrive in Oak Lawn grocery stores and gas stations. The state could increase their stake and hurt local businesses."

Phelan is worried about the amount of money people may spend on video gaming.

"For every dollar wagered and lost, we get five cents," Phelan said. "God forbid we ever get $500,000, that means $10 million was lost in Oak Lawn. I have firsthand experience, I managed a bar in Champaign. People call you and say, 'If you let this person play again I'm gonna sue you.' That's not a joke, people do have addictions.

"I don't want this to be wildly successful. I think we should allow it for current establishments and people can be reasonable