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Local News

Lockport considers strengthening video gambling regulations

Video gaming machines sit tucked away Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, at American Legion Post 1080 in Joliet, Ill.
Video gaming machines sit tucked away Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, at American Legion Post 1080 in Joliet, Ill.

Lockport is considering adding new rules to its city ordinances to help regulate increased requests from businesses to install video gaming terminals.

The city council Wednesday night opened a discussion at its Committee of the Whole meeting on what restrictions they want to set for video gaming now that the city is a home-rule municipality.

Illinois requires a business that wants to add video gaming to have a liquor license. Since Lockport became a home-rule municipality at the end of 2017, the city has only been able manage requests from businesses for installing terminals through Mayor Steven Streit’s role as liquor control commissioner.

The city added the requirement that businesses installing video gaming terminals also have a kitchen to curb the proliferation of gambling-only establishments in the city, when Streit first became mayor in 2013. Aside from that provision, the city does not have any other regulations.

The state this summer expanded its Video Gaming Act, including raising the cap on terminals in an establishment from five to six.

Streit said Wednesday night that “a huge rush” recently has emerged for liquor licenses in order to install these terminals, and he said he felt the need for additional rules.

Giving the new La Michoacana Del Valle ice cream parlor as an example, Streit said he found “places that seem to be very inappropriate places to have gaming asking for liquor licenses.”

“It became me saying, ‘I won’t give you a liquor license if this is where you are going,’ ” Streit said.

Anthony’s Pancake House, a long-time restaurant that already has a liquor license, didn’t approach the city before recently installing gaming terminals, Streit said.

He said he felt the spread of video gaming establishments “take down the image of the city,” and residents have been asking for him to bring “quality restaurants” in town.

Lockport currently has 17 establishments with varying liquor licenses that offer video gambling, with four to five terminals each.

The city makes an average of about $200,000 a year from the business, which is earmarked for improvements in downtown Lockport, according to a memo from City Attorney Sonni Williams.

The council discussed options such as linking the video gaming request only to its C-1 liquor license, which is for restaurants only, and capping the licenses so that a new business could only get one if an old one closed.

Other options include establishing a new video gaming license, limiting the number of terminals to five, adding fees on terminals and allowing exemptions for current establishments.

Most of the council present was inclined to add regulations, favoring the establishment of a new video gaming license, partition requirements to keep minors from the gambling area, and exemptions for established businesses.

Alderman Darren Deskin was the lone dissenting voice. Alderman JR Gillogly was absent.

Deskin said that he felt that current state regulations and the city’s requirement of a kitchen were enough.

“We have a free market,” Deskin said. “If somebody meets the requirements we have, it’s not our place to say, ‘Thou shalt not have this.’ ”

After some pushback from Streit, who said the city council “legislates all the time” as part of its responsibilities, Deskin did allow that he would support limiting video gaming requests to the C-1 license only.

Joe Gallas of the newly opened Stagecoach Saloon and David Mede of Embers Taphouse spoke at the meeting, encouraging the council to tread carefully with new regulations.

Mede said his business was following “the letter of the law” in that it was only providing “an additional service for customers to enjoy.”

He said the revenue he gets from video gaming helps to pay property taxes for his business.

“It is a vital, important thing that, while Lockport is growing, we have an additional revenue source that keeps our bills paid,” he said.

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