Coal City leaders still wish for local control
Village continues video gambling talks, doesn’t vote
COAL CITY — Coal City leaders received a legal update on the subject of video gaming machines and continued to discuss the issue at their meeting Monday night.
Coal City’s trustees at their June 11 meeting voted to table the decision to allow video gaming machines in village establishments with liquor licenses, as they hoped to receive public comment and to get more information on the issue.
During his report to the board, Attorney Parker Johnson told the board he’s been in touch with counsel for the Illinois Gaming Board on whether municipalities like Coal City can further restrict state law to selectively approve the machines. Under the Video Gaming Act of 2009, establishments with liquor licenses like bars, restaurants, truck stops and fraternal and veterans organizations can apply for a license to house up to five of the machines.
“They bounced it right back and said, ‘We don’t have an opinion, we’re not going to issue an opinion,’ and what that really means is they’re going to wait for somebody to sue a municipality to find out what a court will say about permissible regulation of video gaming by a non-home rule municipality,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the gaming board has been receptive to the village’s request to delay consideration of applications by Coal City establishments until the village has decided how to proceed. In the meantime, he said he’s examining whether the village may be able to retain some control through the liquor licensing process.
Mayor Neal Nelson shared concerns about the expansion of gambling in the state, as well as the lack of local control over the machines.
He said he’s been happy to approve liquor licenses to support local restaurants, but does not like the idea of those restaurants automatically getting the same seal of approval for video gaming machines.
“Now the state of Illinois dictates, not from local control, but from them, that everyone that pours liquor can have five of these machines sitting there and I don’t think that’s right. I think local control is the best way to go with this,” Nelson said. “The state is overreaching its authority.”
Trustee Georgette Vota agreed with Nelson on his lack of trust in the state, but also looked to the other side of the issue.
“I play the Lotto, I go to the casinos, I go to Las Vegas,” Vota said. “I want to be able to spend my money the way I want to spend it.”
She said if an area business had a video gaming machine and if she felt inclined to play it, she’d go there. If there wasn’t a machine, she’d go elsewhere, and so would her money.
“It’s a double-edged sword ... there are going to be people that abuse it, don’t get me wrong on that, but I’m not here to tell somebody how to run their life, either,” she said. “It’s up to them.”
Trustee Terry Halliday said he lined up with Nelson on the issue in being interested in seeing if the video gaming machines could be limited to bars.
“People go in there and they know they’re going to see that, but if you go into a restaurant, people are going to go in with their kids at restaurants, they don’t want to see a gaming thing going on there,” he said. “But at the same time, what I don’t want to do is make that decision then turn around and get sued by the state ... then we’re costing ourselves even more money.”
Owners of local businesses and representatives of an area amusement device company were in the audience and took part in the discussion, highlighting the intensive application process for approval to receive the machines and oversight by gaming agents.
The board didn’t take action on the issue, but is continuing to seek information. The subject will be continued to the July 9 meeting.