Will County executive signs video gaming resolution

Resolution prohibits additional video poker machines in unincorporated areas

Will County Executive Larry Walsh signed a resolution recently approved by the county board that prohibits additional video poker licenses in unincorporated Will County.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Walsh said the board’s action was “mostly symbolic,” despite there being sizable opposition to one establishment in Frankfort Township.

“There were several bills introduced in Springfield this year, and the county board should have taken a more serious approach to this ‘critical’ problem they have identified,” Walsh said. “Instead, [the board] focused on one establishment in one part of our county.”

He added that the board should “get serious and be proactive” in its efforts to limit further expansion of video gaming in Will County. To serve that purpose, Walsh said the board should lobby state legislators to enact meaningful legislation.

Walsh said he is opposed to the proliferation of store front video poker establishments, saying these types of establishments were not intended in the original legislation. Still, the county executive stated that the board’s “feel good” action will not have an impact on these types of businesses within municipal boundaries.

“Video poker was approved by the Illinois General Assembly in 2009, but did not really begin until 2012 across Illinois,” Walsh said. “During this period there was lots of rhetoric, but no action by the Will County Board to ban this form of gaming until April 2015. Meanwhile numerous small businesses, VFWs, and American Legion Halls successfully secured these licenses which helped these establishments keep their doors open and was the original intent of this legislation.”

The action taken by the county board only applies to unincorporated Will County and new licenses. Businesses that currently have a video poker license will not lose their ability to have gaming machines, and municipalities such as Joliet and Lockport can continue to allow video gaming.

Walsh said there are at least 19 municipalities in the county that still allow video poker establishments. Countywide, there are about 229 locations that offer video poker.

“Like it or not, gambling is very prevalent in Illinois and is mainly intended to be a revenue supplement for all levels of government,” he said. “With this action, Will County government will lose additional revenue and remove another tool for some small businesses to succeed in the unincorporated areas of the county.”

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