The Will County Board voted down an expansion of video gaming in unincorporated parts of the county at its meeting Thursday.
The measure would have repealed a 2015 prohibition of video gaming in unincorporated areas. The repeal failed, 13-10, with two members abstaining.
Member Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, has consistently spoken out against allowing more video gaming and lauded the original prohibition implemented four years ago. He called gambling “predatory” and “addictive,” and argued it would negatively impact poor and middle class residents.
“It is not something we need in our neighborhoods,” Moustis said.
After the state legalized video gaming a decade ago, it gave municipalities the ability to opt out of allowing it within their borders. But by the time the County Board chose to prohibit video gaming, some businesses had already attained licenses from the state.
Those businesses were grandfathered in and allowed to keep their licenses.
Some County Board members saw lifting the ban as an issue of fairness because some businesses and organizations in unincorporated areas that did not get licenses before the prohibition are at a disadvantage.
“Our government has set up unfair advantages for certain businesses and has limited the success of other businesses,” said Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet. “I don’t think this is a practice our government wants to get into.”
In response to a challenge by Moustis to give him “one good thing” that would come out of expanding gambling, Ventura said that tax revenue generated from the industry goes to fund education in the state.
Member Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, called Ventura’s argument “a bunch of baloney” and said the state using tax revenue from gambling still wasn’t adequately funding schools. He added that if businesses and organizations can’t raise enough money to survive without video gaming, then “unfortunately they have to go away.”
Members of the Fort Erie Elks Lodge, a fraternal organization in unincorporated Lockport, were in support of the county allowing more video gaming. Some attended the County Board meeting Thursday in hopes the ban would be lifted but were disappointed.
“We can understand people’s feelings as far as gambling,” said Early Deloach, a member of the organization. “We’re just going to have to adjust some of our programs and hopefully we can maintain the level of commitment to the community that we have in the past, but it’s going to be difficult.”