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Bets are off: Video gambling is  losing proposition in Sugar Grove

Updated: October 29, 2012 6:54AM

SUGAR GROVE — In a close vote, the Village Board has decided to ban video gambling in the community.

Trustees voted 3-2 in support of the video gambling ban. Trustees David Paluch, Kevin Geary and Rick Montalto voted for the ban, while Trustees Bob Boehler and Mari Johnson both wanted to allow video gambling. Trustee Tom Renk was absent, but indicated afterward that he also would have voted in support of the ban, according to Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger.

Last week, the board passed an amendment to clarify earlier ordinance language so companies that lease or sell the video gambling machines, including Sugar Grove-based Tiger Amusements, would be able to continue to operate in the village.

Geary, who announced he will run for village president against incumbent Sean Michels in spring 2013, said Wednesday that the sole purpose of his vote in support of the ban was to attempt to get the issue put on a ballot as a referendum question. Because the deadline has passed for a getting a referendum on the November ballot, the question could end up on the spring 2013 ballot.

“The issue isn’t if it’s right or wrong,” Geary said. “It’s an issue of whether people want it in their community.”
Geary said all voters should be able to weigh in on the issue.

Johnson, who opposed the ban, said that the state passed the video gambling measure as a way to help fund capital improvements.

“I think as a municipality hoping to benefit from those capital improvements, we should show our support,” Johnson said.

Johnson also said the village has been working hard to reverse a perceived reputation that the village is not business friendly.

“It’s been two steps forward, one step back,” she said. “I know a number of businesses are offended by what (the village board) did.”

Michels, who does not normally have a vote on the board, said he does not support a ban on video gambling.

He said Thursday that the state made video gambling legal, and like the lottery, video gambling is for entertainment.

Michels also disagreed with Geary on the move to put the issue of allowing video gambling in the village to a referendum vote.

“Why are we elected if we put everything to referendum?” Michels asked. “It just makes government take longer to act.”

The Illinois General Assembly passed the Video Gaming Act in 2009 in part to get funds for a $31 billion capital improvement program. The law allows establishments where alcohol is served — licensed bars, fraternal and veterans establishments — to offer video gambling.

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