Communities wrestle with video gaming issue
McCarthy's restaurant owner Steve Crane and Lynne Morris, CEO of Morris Gaming Inc., stand inside of McCarthy's in Vernon Hills. The restaurant is applying to the village of Vernon Hills to have video gaming and poker.| Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 1, 2012 11:35AM
Steve Crane hopes his gamble on video gaming will pay big dividends.
Crane, co-owner of McCarthy’s Restaurant and Irish Pub in the Westfield Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, believes video gaming would be a boost to his business and a nice complement to karaoke and live music.
“Our customers are very excited about it,” said Crane.
Vernon Hills village ordinance does not permit gambling in bars and restaurants but Vernon Hills officials are considering revisiting the issue. Crane wants to install five video gaming machines and is seeking a change to the village code to allow it.
The issue of video gaming has been hot topic in Illinois since the state passed a law allowing it bars and restaurants in 2009, and many communities are still grappling with whether permit it in their towns. Video gaming is expected to go live Illinois in August now that the Illinois Gaming Board has issued regulations for machines.
At its May 14 board meeting, Mundelein officials voted to continue a moratorium that was adopted in 2010 until they get more information about the final video gaming rules from the state Gaming Board.
“It’s very clear there’s no video gaming at this point (in the village),” said Assistant Village Administrator Mike Flynn.
Flynn indicated the Village Board would likely revisit the issue once it has a clearer picture of the final state rules.
Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler said the Libertyville Village Board adopted an ordinance prohibiting video gaming about two years ago, shortly after the state passed a law in 2009 allowing it in bars, restaurants, fraternal or veterans organizations and large truck stops. Weppler said the village board will likely take another look at the issue in near future.
“I’d have to be convinced that it’s appropriate for the community and this is what the community wants to do,” said Weppler.
Vernon Hills officials are giving the issue a much closer look.
“There are several businesses in towns that have expressed an interest in having video gaming in their establishments,” said Vernon Hills Village Mike Allison at the May 15 village board meeting.
Crane and McCarthy’s co-owner Andy Bobowski made a pitch to the village board, requesting Vernon Hills amend its ordinances to allow for video gaming in the community. They were accompanied by Lynne Morris of Morris Gaming, one of the company’s licensed by the state as terminal operators for the video gaming machines.
Crane said McCarthy’s restaurant has operated at the mall for about six years and like other small businesses was hurt by the economic recession.
“We’re really look for this boost to help our business in the future,” he said.
Crane estimates the five video gaming machines would generate about $70,000 a year in revenue for the business. He noted the video gaming machines would be located in a glassed off area of the restaurant where only people 21 and over would be allowed.
Morris said she does not think video gaming in bars and restaurants will contribute to problem gambling because the amount of money that can be wagered and payouts are relatively low. Under new rules established by the state gaming board, the maximum that could be wagered per game is $2 and the maximum payout is $500, she said.
Allison said video gaming could be a potential revenue generator for Vernon Hills. If 27 liquor license establishments each had five video gaming terminals, those machines would be expected to generate about $310,000 in annual tax revenue for the village, he said.
In order to allow for video gaming, Vernon Hills would have to change its ordinances. Vernon Hills Village Attorney Bob Kenny said the village board did not adopt an ordinance banning video gaming when the state law was passed, but there were already ordinances on the books regulating gambling.
“Village ordinance prohibits gambling in liquor license establishments, which is long established and fairly typical of most communities,” he said. “The code has got to be changed to allow for video gaming.”