Village Board Ponders Impact of Video Gaming on Oak Lawn
Oak Lawn Village Board weighs pros and cons of video gambling machines and influx of liquor license applications.
Existing businesses that serve liquor as well as new businesses coming into town are making a run at Lady Luck by applying for video gaming licenses in Oak Lawn.
Before the mayor and trustees could deliberate on a liquor license for a restaurant group seeking to open a video gaming café in Oak Lawn, anti-gambling crusader Kathy Gilroy urged village board members to reverse their stance on allowing electronic gaming machines in the community.
“Did you intend to invite one-armed bandits to Oak Lawn or did you allow them in response to long established, liquor-serving businesses,” Gilroy said during public comments. “Would you allow more liquor licenses in Oak Lawn to accommodate out-of-towners and their gambling cafes which would compete with existing business that are trying to survive?”
The state gaming law allows any business licensed to serve to apply for a video gaming license from the Illinois Gaming Board, provided that municipalities permit video gaming machines within their respective communities. This includes bars, taverns, off-track betting facilities, truck stops, fraternal organizations and restaurants.
The Oak Lawn Village Board voted to allow video gaming machines within village limits last fall. Since then, 21 gaming licenses have been applied for and/or granted to existing restaurants and bars. The Illinois Video Gaming Act allows such establishments to have five video gaming machines.
Trustee Carol Quinlan (Dist. 5) said one establishment which has had the machines for three months generated $1,861 in tax revenue to the village, according to a recent Illinois Gaming Board report. Businesses that have the machines are each estimated to generate $2,000 or more.
“That’s one establishment. According to the list there are 21 pending licenses,” Quinlan said. “Potentially, on the conservative side … were talking $500,000 to the village every year. So it is something to think about.”
Trustee Cindy Trautsch (Dist. 1), in whose district a proposed “gaming café” offering appetizers and alcohol—as well as five video gaming tables—said that liquor license applications are multiplying so that businesses can obtain their gaming licenses.
The Blackhawk Restaurant Group LLC which has been aggressively pitching its gaming bistros and cafes throughout the Chicago region, wants to open a café called Penny’s Place in the Oak Lawn Promenade at 95th Street and Ridgeland Avenue.
“Not only are they generating $2,500 monthly in [gaming] tax, they’re also generating property tax, sales tax [and] corporate tax,” Trautsch said. “They are doing a little bit more for us but that’s not to say I want one on every corner.”
Oak Lawn has 15 different liquor license categories. When a new liquor license application is applied for, an ordinance to increase the number of liquor licenses must also also go before the village board.
“That’s why we always vote to increase the number every time,” Mayor Dave Heilmann said, “so we can legally deny anybody a liquor license because we are always at our maximum.”
Discussing different possibilities for regulating gaming licenses, village attorney Patrick Connelly said that as a home-rule town, Oak Lawn has the authority to cap the number gaming licenses in the village, or create a special business license category.
“We still have home rule powers to regulate video gaming within the village,” Connelly said. “What a lot of municipalities have done is create a special business license for video gaming machines that comes with a fee. That’s certainly within our realm of home-rule authority.”
While weighing the benefits of the added revenue and occupied storefronts, Trustee Tom Phelan (Dist. 6) said he was uncomfortable with all of the new gambling entities coming in.
“I don’t know if that’s what Oak Lawn is about,” he said. “The revenue is good but the revenue is bad. You’re not selling cars or food, you’re selling people misery.”
Trustee Bob Streit (Dist. 3) said there hasn't been the great run on video gaming as portrayed by some village board members.
“It isn’t a panacea but at the same time we as a board have responsibility to look at any request from a business establishment that wants to come in … I would advise us that we look at it on a case-by-case basis,” Streit said. “The easy thing is to pretend this is something that’s inappropriate but we all know that it is not.”
Oak Lawn trustees approved Blackhawk's liquor license application 6-0, but said they would examine existing ordinances and revisit video gaming again at a later date.
The following existing Oak Lawn businesses have been approved and/or applied for for video gaming licenses as of Jan. 4.
Demma's Lounge 5805 W 87th
F.A. Tailgators, Inc 9256 S Cicero
Hooters of Oak Lawn 9159 S Cicero
Krauss Gaslite 5130 W 95th
Petey's Bungalow 4401 W 95th
PJ's Pour House 5635 W 87th
Quigley's 4010 W 111th
TC Pub 9700 S Cicero
The Hot Corner 4913 W 95th
West End 6950 Corp 6950 W 95th
Johnson Phelps VFW Post 9514 S 52nd
1. Avenue Flower Shop at 10632 S. Cicero
2. Bar Code 99 at 9906 Southwest Highway
3.Deja Brew Bar and Grille at 5219 West 95th Street
4.P.D.'s Place at 9611 Southwest Highway
5.Rusty Nail at 5763 West 95th Place
6.St. James Place at 5305 W. 95th Street
7. Goal Post at 5207 W 95th Street
Should the village board cap video gaming licenses in Oak Lawn? Tell us in the comments.