Business owners can’t sway board in latest bid for gaming machines
By Marney Simon | Enterprise Staff
Despite some impassioned pleas by members of the community and two village trustees, the village of Plainfield has once again said no to video poker within village limits.
On Jan. 8, the members of the village board voted 4-2 to shut down the latest proposal to add video gaming to the village.
The vote followed about 20 minutes of public comment, where most of those speaking were in favor of the village passing an ordinance.
Business owners in favor of gaming said the money brought in can help offset costs inside their business, helping them keep employees and eliminating their need to cut costs.
Some business owners suggested that in some places, such as gas stations, the availability of video poker terminals can serve to increase security, by having more people around during late night hours.
Others in support of the ordinance argued that customers will bring their business to other towns to utilize video poker, and with that business will go dollars that would be spent locally on food, drink, or other retail goods. Those in favor called video gaming an asset, and said local businesses are operating at a disadvantage to those businesses in neighboring towns that attract crowds due to gaming.
But village leaders weren’t interested in letting gaming come to town.
“I just think this is wrong for the village of Plainfield, and I don’t support it,” said Trustee Margie Bonuchi, who added that she had fielded calls and emails from constituents who were against video gaming.
Trustee Brian Wojowski called the ordinance as presented sloppy, if village trustees wanted to make amendments to it after initial passage.
“I think the risk involved in video gaming in its current format is taken on by the village, more so than anybody else,” Wojowski said. “The distributor who takes on the least amount of risk makes the most profit. I just think it’s upside down. From a personal aspect, as a village that strive to keep the family values high, I just don’t think it’s right in its current format for the village.”
Trustees Cally Larson and Edward O’Rourke were in favor of the ordinance. O’Rourke wanted to take the issue a step further, by asking for three amendments which would only allow video gaming at established businesses, and banning so-called “internet cafes.”
“It’s revenue positive,” O’Rourke said. “The communities around us are taking advantage of it, and I do believe we are losing revenue and our business owners are losing business to neighboring communities.”
“At the end of the day, it’s economics,” Larson added. “We’re not non-for-profit business, all of our businesses that are there that have open signs on them are there to make a dollar. As residents, we patronize these businesses, that tend to be the backbone of our community… and I’d like to see that opportunity there for them.”
Larson and O’Rourke were the only yes votes.
The village code prohibits gambling inside establishments that serve alcohol.
The new ordinance would have allowed certain establishments to house video gaming terminals.
The Illinois’ Video Gaming Act became law in 2009, but allows municipalities to prohibit video gaming.
After the legislation was enacted, municipalities were given the option to “opt out” of video gaming. The village of Plainfield left its ordinance prohibiting games of chance in place.
Mayor Mike Collins said the issue had come up – and been defeated – more than a half dozen times since he’s been involved in village government.