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Lakewood Village Board keeps video gambling ban in place

Shw Media file photo
A video gambling screen displays a game Sept. 26, 2013, at Hermann's Rest-a-While Bar and Grill in Port Barrington.
Shw Media file photo A video gambling screen displays a game Sept. 26, 2013, at Hermann's Rest-a-While Bar and Grill in Port Barrington.

LAKEWOOD – The village will remain free of video gambling machines after the Village Board rejected an ordinance to overturn its ban.

Board members voted Tuesday evening, 3-0 with two abstentions, against ending the last remaining ban still in force in McHenry County. About 50 people attended the meeting, with speakers during public comment overwhelmingly opposed to allowing the machines within village limits.

The request to overturn the ban was made late last year by the new management of Turnberry Country Club, where the village meeting was held.

Constituent opposition to the idea prompted the opposing votes from Trustees Paul Serwatka, Gene Furey and Bev Thomas. With Furey seconding, Serwatka successfully forced a vote against an attempt to table the ordinance so Turnberry, which at 9600 Turnberry Trail is in a residential area, could speak to residents and club members.

Serwatka said that although he supports smaller government and less regulation of commerce, he voted for what his constituents wanted and said Turnberry’s location makes it a unique case. Both Serwatka and Furey said they received numerous calls and emails from residents opposed to allowing video gambling.

“We’re not talking about a cafe in a strip mall – we’re talking about the heart of a residential community, and the people are very, very set against it,” Serwatka said.

Lakewood was one of six local governments that banned video gambling under an opt-out in the 2009 state law that legalized it to finance a $31 billion capital plan, but five of them have since changed their minds and overturned their prohibitions after bar and restaurant owners complained that the bans put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Establishments that serve alcohol, truck stops and fraternal and veterans organizations can have up to five of the machines under state law. The state gets 30 percent of the proceeds, 5 percent of which goes back to local governments. The remaining 70 percent is split between the business and the company that operates the machines.

Turnberry and three of the four other businesses holding village liquor licenses would have been eligible for gaming permits had the ban been overturned, according to village records.

Besides public outcry, Furey said video gambling would not be a good fit for the village’s character. As a former village treasurer, he added that the small amount of revenue the machines would generate for village government would not justify lifting the ban.

“I don’t think it really contributes anything at all to the village,” Furey said.

Village President Erin Smith, who lives in Turnberry, opposed lifting the ban, but she was one of several who favored tabling the matter to a later date. She did not vote, but said she would have voted no to break a tie.

Unlike other governments that lifted their bans at the request of multiple business owners, only Turnberry requested it, Smith said. Both the owners of Lou Malnati’s and the Lakewood Commons behind it said they have no interest in video gambling, Smith said.

“There were no other businesses asking us for a video gambling ordinance,” Smith said.

Another concern the Village Board had was that during the winter months in which the golf course is closed, the country club essentially would become a video gambling parlor.

The proposed ordinance scuttled Tuesday explicitly prohibited such parlors, which are legal in some other local municipalities.

How they voted

The Lakewood Village Board voted Tuesday evening, 3-0 with two abstentions, against overturning the village’s ban on video gambling.

Voting no were Paul Serwatka, Gene Furey and Bev Thomas. Trustees Jeff Iden and Jason McMahon abstained.

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