Proposal to lift video gaming ban In La Grange Park falls flat

La Grange Park staff prepared a draft ordinance to discuss allowing video games within village boundaries for Tuesday’s work session.

But after public reaction almost exclusively denounced the idea, the Board decided to include an item on the consent agenda of its January 24 meeting reaffirming its support for the gaming ban passed in 2010. agreed.

Robert Bartholomew, a member of the village planning and zoning committee, said in public comments that calling the practice a video game is disingenuous.

“We are talking about video gambling,” he said, emphasizing that the revenue does not offset the cost to society. “This is a bad example for children.”

The issue has been in the spotlight since late 2022, when two restaurant owners approached the village and lost revenue to other municipalities that allowed video games on site.

The owners of Mattone at 9 E. 31st Street and Bill’s Place at 1146 N. Maple Avenue have spoken at previous board meetings and described the issue as one of survival for their business.

Neither owner was present at Monday’s board meeting.

A draft of the ordinance and Ordinance 914, the measure enacted in 2010 to ban video games, are both available on the La Grange Park Village website.

The draft contains several requirements for facilities to play video games. Prominent among them are those who possess the appropriate certificate or license from the State of Illinois, a La Grange Park Class B, Class D, or Class G liquor license and have outstanding debts or obligations to the Village. and have been in business for 12 years. .

The ordinance also limits video game terminals to six per facility, ensures that income from games does not exceed 49% of the facility’s net income, and does not allow video games to be placed within 100 feet of schools or places of worship, or outdoors. We requested that no visible signage be installed. .

None of these proposed restrictions appeared to soften the opposition in the village boardroom on Monday.

“My wife and I would vote ‘no,'” Drew Gaskell, a nine-year resident, told the board, highlighting gaming opportunities in the nearby municipality.

Jim Donahue, a 25-year resident, has no desire to participate in video games. I vote against ”

“No need,” said Shayne Hansen, owner of 23 E. 31st Street in the Hop District, simply.

The most ardent speaker against video games was Jason Korinek, owner of Posto 31, 1017 E. 31st Street.

“I gave dozens of reasons why video games aren’t a good idea,” he told the board, pointing out that part of Mattone’s problem is that the menu hasn’t changed in years. bottom.

“Work harder, work smarter,” he said.

One of the voices in favor of video games was Marty McAlpirn, who represents Prairie State Gaming.

“It’s inherently a win-win situation for businesses,” he said of the video game proposal, noting the additional billions in revenue the state has received since video games were legalized in 2009. . ”

Public opinion has had its weight, although several councilors have voiced their support at past conferences.

“I received dozens of emails against video games,” said Jamie Zaura, the trustee who was skeptical of the idea.

Zaura also dismissed the idea of ​​holding referendums or online polls to gauge public support, saying: “The polls will be distorted because you elected us.” “You won’t get a lot of revenue,” added Zaura.

Neighboring villages such as Western Springs and the downtown districts of La Grange were packed even without video games, according to Mike Sheehan.

“I do not support this,” he said. Jermaine Stewart agreed, saying, “I don’t think video games are the right move.”

Councilors Karen Koncel and Juan Silva voted along with others to put an ordinance banning video games on the next consent agenda, even though it was, as Silva put it, “pending.”

“There are businesses that you can step into financially,” she said. “But I’m not convinced this is the way to go.”

However, Koncel admitted that there are other vices that the Village tolerates.

“Alcohol establishments are allowed,” she said. “No one is talking about shutting it down.”

Village chief James Discipio put the debate to a halt by calling for an ordinance banning video games to be next on the agenda.

“We haven’t had a response from anyone wanting it,” he said of the email correspondence.

The next meeting of the La Grange Park Village Board of Directors will be held on January 24 at 7:30 pm in the La Grange Park Village Board Room, 447 N. Catherine Ave.

Hank Beckman is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

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