Video gambling, especially video gaming cafés, remains a contentious issue in many local communities, four years after becoming legal in Illinois.
State law allows any establishment with a license to serve liquor to apply to the Illinois Gaming Board for a license, which typically would permit a maximum of five gaming terminals. In Evergreen Park, only the Evergreen Park American Legion Post 854 at 9701 S. Kedzie Ave. has been issued a gaming license. But other communities have been more open to providing them, until now, when several appear to be putting the brakes on.
In Oak Lawn, 36 establishments offer video gaming. These are primarily restaurants and veterans organizations, but there are also two video gaming cafés. The village’s portion of the revenue generated monthly amounted to $49,638 in October, the same month the village board decided unanimously to limit the number of cafés to those two.
Mayor Sandra Bury said that while video gaming likely helped many struggling restaurants remain open during the recent recession, the board wanted to encourage businesses that offered more than gaming. Video gaming cafés typically serve hot food along with beer and wine, but the focus of their business is video gaming. Bury said the main purpose of allowing video gaming was to help existing businesses stay afloat, and concerns have been raised about too much video gaming bringing down the appearance of the village.
A majority of trustees on the Chicago Ridge Village Board have expressed similar concerns. Twenty establishments in that village currently have gaming licenses, including a handful of video gaming cafés. The village also raised the price of the annual licenses issued per gaming terminal from $100 to $500.
But it doesn’t look like there will be any more cafés in the near future. Over the last few months, three proposals for new businesses with gaming licenses have been rejected by five of the six trustees.
Of the 13 establishments in Worth with gaming licenses, Roma Café, 6606 W. 111th St., generated the most gambling revenue in October, with $879,000 wagered. The owner of the business had sought permission to open another café by the same name four blocks east in Chicago Ridge, but was turned down. “I’m not losing out. You are,” said owner Refaat Fanous, who had promised to offer a high-quality menu along with the gambling.
The Chicago Ridge Village Board agreed to discuss the pros and cons of officially limiting the number of video gaming cafés in the village at the next meeting on Dec. 6. Mayor Chuck Tokar has warned against doing so, asserting that turning away businesses affects the tax base, and results in more vacant commercial space. Trustee Jack Lind has argued that it doesn’t make sense to reject video gaming, because it is legal and hasn’t caused any problems for the village yet.
While Hickory Hills has 15 establishments with video gaming licenses, Palos Hills has only seven. The Palos Hills City Council had resisted allowing video gaming cafés until last December, when an ordinance was passed allowing them. It was initially rejected two months previously. There are now two gaming cafés in town.