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Lombard Village Board takes step toward lifting video gaming ban

LOMBARD – Lombard may be the latest municipality in DuPage County to usher in video gambling at local liquor establishments after a motion was approved to direct village staff to draft an ordinance repealing the existing ban.

Lombard Village President Keith Giagnorio broke a 3-to-3 vote during Thursday night's Village Board meeting, casting a vote in favor of the motion. Trustees Bill Ware (District 6), Mike Fugiel (District 2) and Reid Foltyniewicz (District 3) voted in favor of the motion, while trustees Peter Breen (District 4), Laura Fitzpatrick (District 5) and Dan Whittington (District 1) voted against it.

An official vote to rescind the local ban is expected to take place during the village board's June 19 meeting.

"This isn't about generating income for the village – I'm looking at it as generating income for our small business owners," said Giagnorio, acknowledging that he is a business owner, as well. Giagnorio gave his stance following a lengthy conversation that included passionate feedback from all trustees, as well as a handful of residents and business owners.

State lawmakers in 2009 approved a law allowing gambling terminals, leaving municipalities with the option to ban gaming, a move Lombard chose to pursue in 2010.

Municipalities that approve and apply for video gambling would have to abide by local and state requirements, including background checks on business owners and a limit of five terminals per establishment.

Ware, who has been championing the push to overturn the ban, said that, while he didn't agree with video gaming when it was approved by the state five years ago, a clear process has been put in place to regulate it.

"This is now set and governed by the Illinois Gaming Board," Ware said.

Allowing video gambling pits the village against its residents, said Breen, who along with Fitzpatrick spoke vehemently against the proposed repeal.

"The only way we make money, is if you lose money," said Breen, looking out at the audience. "This is not the recipe for bringing jobs back to Illinois and keeping people in the Land of Lincoln."

Fitzpatrick, one of only two trustees along with Ware that was on the board in 2010, said that the ban was "thoughtfully put into place," and added that five years of data is not enough to make an educated decision on whether video gaming is harmful to society.

"The harm is we just don't know yet – there just isn't enough history," she said.

Fugiel and Foltyniewicz both agreed that residents are capable of deciding for themselves if video gaming is appropriate for them.

"I think Lombardians are smart enough to do what they want with their money," Foltyniewicz said. "It's their money."

Whittington requested that a residential poll be conducted to get a better view of how residents feel about the issue, which was met with opposition from both sides.

"Anybody who knows me knows how pro-business I am," Whittington responded. "There's no rush for this. I think we have a couple months to give our residents, our bosses, a say."

Four Lombard residents spoke during public comments, all voicing their opposition to video gaming.

Ken Wojcik, who worked for the Chicago Federation of Musicians on passing gambling in Illinois, said he has since changed his stance.

"To bring that to our village is improper," Wojcik said. "I don't want to bring that to our community."

Local business owners, however, said they would welcome video gaming.

"I think it'll be wonderful," said Dawn Capone, owner of Capone's Restaurant & Pizzeria on St Charles Road. "We have a lot of customers that ask for it all the time. If it's here, I think they'll spend more money at our business."

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