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Village Board at odds over video gaming

Matthew Apgar – mapgar@shawmedia.com
La Grange officials are considering an ordinance that would permit businesses to install video gaming machines.
Matthew Apgar – mapgar@shawmedia.com La Grange officials are considering an ordinance that would permit businesses to install video gaming machines.

La Grange officials are weighing the odds of allowing video gaming in town.

The topic was discussed at the June 10 meeting of the La Grange Village Board.

Video gaming is not allowed in La Grange, but surrounding communities such as Countryside and Brookfield permit it. Western Springs and La Grange Park, however, do not allow video gaming machines.

The topic came up in 2009 when state legislation was approved giving municipalities the opportunity to opt in or opt out of video poker. The La Grange Community and Economic Development Commission examined the issue last year.

“It’s something we want to be responsive to in terms of business interest in the village and resident interest as well,” Village President Thomas Livingston said.

Village staff drafted an ordinance to address video gaming to help frame the board’s discussion.

Village attorney Mark Burkland described the proposed ordinance as “the most restrictive” measure in accordance with what the state allows.

The ordinance, if approved, would address penalties, signage restrictions and security measures, officials said.

A maximum of five video gaming machines would be allowed at an individual business, Burkland said.

Trustee Lou Gale asked if the village would assume any administrative undertakings to make video gaming possible in town.

Burkland said that La Grange’s administrative and regulatory oversight responsibilities would be relatively minimal.

“All of this is governed very strictly and electronically through the state,” Burkland said. “The state will know very quickly if there’s something amiss with the operations. The village will know what’s going on in an establishment with a liquor license in the same way it does now.”

The village has identified at least 18 businesses that believe video gaming could be helpful, officials said.

Steve Palmer, owner of Palmer Place, a La Grange Road restaurant, said video gaming has been a topic of discussion for years and could be beneficial to the community.

“We are supportive of a lot of what was listed there,” Palmer said. “Our position was, and still is, we don’t want to do anything to the detriment to our community. We love La Grange. We love what we have here. We do think this could be an asset in multiple ways.”

Trustee Mark Kuchler said he could support video gaming, especially because it’s become more common.

“I do see this evolving into a more accepted occurrence that you see so much in so many restaurants I go in now and don’t even notice when they’re there,” he said. “It’s no issue.”

Based on average estimates of 15 communities statewide, La Grange revenue would increase to between $100,000 and $200,000 annually, and each licensed establishment would generate between $60,000 and $90,000 annually, said Charity Jones, the village’s community development director. 

“There are financial benefits to the village from video poker, but I wouldn’t say that’s a driver,” Livingston said.

Gale asked if video gaming presents issues from a law enforcement perspective.

“It’s always a concern in talking with some neighboring chiefs who do have video gaming,” Police Chief Kurt Bluder said. “They have not seen an uptick in criminal activity, but, yes, it’s always a concern.”

Some trustees said they wouldn’t want businesses to have three-year license renewals for video gaming, preferring instead that they receive one-year license renewals.

The village board will consider taking action on the issue at a future meeting.

Also at the meeting, the board authorized an amendment to an ordinance regulating tobacco and alternative nicotine products.

Village board action makes unlawful the sale, purchase or possession of tobacco products involving anyone under age 21, which is consistent with the state of Illinois’ new tobacco 21 rule.

The amendment stipulates that first and second offenses will lead to $35 and $60 fines, respectively.

In other business, a $1.6 million bid was awarded to Lindahl Brothers for the village’s 2019-20 neighborhood street resurfacing project. Baxter and Woodman will provide construction management services for an amount not to exceed $109,000.

Work will include roadway repairs at Blackstone Avenue from Cossitt Avenue to 47th Street and along Ashland Avenue from Harris Avenue to 47th Street.

The village board approved a $19,000 engineering agreement with Baxter and Woodman for engineering services related to the village’s sewer televising program.

• The board confirmed the appointments of Beverly Hayes and Maurice McGee to the Community and Economic Development Commission for terms that expire in 2022.

• Tim Reardon was reappointed to the Design Review Board for a term that expires in 2022.

• Stan Zarnoweicki, Margaret Peterson, Bruce Whiteway, Brandon Simak and David Mayand were appointed and Rose Naseef and Mary Gertsmeier were reappointed to the Environmental Quality Commission.

• Suzanne Mosher was appointed and Greg Paice and Jeff Hoffenberg were reappointed to the Plan Commission.

• Trustees Mike Kotynek and Mark Kuchler were appointed to the La Grange Liquor Commission.