Franklin Park debates video gambling
Updated: July 29, 2012 7:02AM
It will bring in tax revenue. It will take money out of the economy. It will help local business. It will create addicts.
These are some of the perspectives that Franklin Park village trustees are hearing as they gather information on whether to allow video gambling machines in the village.
Joe Houdek of American Legion Post 974 supports allowing video gambling.
“We are in favor,” Houdek said. “It will bring in additional income. As a service organization, people don’t give us as much as they used to.”
The post supports veterans at Hines VA Hospital, helps veterans get benefits, runs bingo games for blind veterans and offers small scholarships to students at Leyden District 212 among other efforts.
Statewide, the American Legion and VFW have hired lobbyists to persuade municipalities to allow video gambling.
Bar owner Mike O’Donnell spoke in support of video gambling at a June 18 meeting of village trustees.
“We need the machines,” O’Donnell said. “It’s going to help us keep our doors open.”
Trustee Cheryl McLean, who delayed a June 4 vote so trustees could gather more information, said her main concern is in keeping children away from video gambling machines.
“I don’t care if they’re in bars,” McLean said. “Children aren’t in bars. My only concern is the little mom-and-pop restaurants that have a liquor license. That’s where people take their families.”
Under the law passed by the General Assembly in 2009, four entities would be allowed to apply for video gambling machines. Those are veteran’s organizations, fraternal organizations, truck stops and businesses with retail liquor licenses (but not package liquor).
That means trustees would be unable to restrict video gambling from restaurants with liquor licenses. Trustees do, however, determine what businesses get liquor licenses.
Those four entities stand to make good money. According to Professor John Kindt of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, video gambling machines bring in an average of $100,000 per year.
Out of that, 35 percent goes to the machine owner, 35 percent goes to the establishment, 25 percent goes to the state government and 5 percent goes to the local government.
While machine owners and establishments would do well, Kindt describes video gambling as “black hole economics.”
“With people dumping money into gambling machines, most of the money is going back to Las Vegas,” Kindt said. “Instead of buying cars and refrigerators, where the state gets sales tax. It’s not creating any new jobs. It’s just taking a lot of money from consumer spending.”
Anita Bedell, executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, said allowing video gambling would have a negative impact on local communities.
“I think people are very naïve if they think you’re going to spend $20 and leave,” Bedell said. “That’s not how casinos make money. They get it from people who are addicted. In Ontario, for example, 60 percent of revenue comes from addicted gamblers.”
“These machines are very addictive. When you make gambling more respectable and acceptable, people will go more often. Local communities will have a lot of problems. Addiction, crime, bankruptcy, divorce,” Bedell said.
As of June 22, a total of 85 municipalities and four counties had opted out of allowing video gambling, Bedell said.
If Franklin Park trustees vote to allow video gambling, business and organizations would have to apply to the Illinois Gaming Board for approval. Bedell expects machines will start being rolled out as early as August.