Video gambling ordinance begins to stir debate
10 months ago by Bob Gough
Ordinance puts City code in line with state law
The debate over allowing video gambling in Quincy looks to heat up Monday night.
Seven speakers have requested to appear before the Quincy City Council on the issue, which would modify the city code to put it in line with the state law that regulates the games of chance.
Several churches in the City have begun asking their congregations to weigh in on the issue.
In an e-mail to members of The Crossing, Pastor Jerry Harris wrote that video gambling “hurts our city” and then listed reasons including addiction, lowering the City’s quality of life, opening the door to further gambling expansion and saying it hurts people, “specifically the poor and their children”.
“Presently, we minister to benevolence needs through the income that is generated from our thrift stores,” Harris wrote. “Parents battling addictions leave their children to fend for themselves as they pursue their addictions only to have their children grow up imitating their behavior. The money we generate and pour into our local benevolent needs seeks to reverse these trends. The last thing our community needs is another addiction to fight.
Harris continues that it is “pretty obvious that our city believes that this is a way to generate revenue to spend on worthy projects but I believe that the cost is too high. If you would like your voice to be heard, you can call your alderman and voice your concern…Finally, be sure to pray that this effort would be struck down."
Don Heck operates video gaming machines and says the state regulates the machines so the operator gets 35 percent of the winnings, the establishment gets 35 percent of the winnings and the state gets 30 percent. The State will then turn back 5 percent to the municipalities.
“These are highly regulated machines,” Heck said. “Once you get your operator’s license, then each machine has to be licensed and then the location has to be approved…all of this by the Illinois State Police and the Illinois Gaming Board.”
Heck said his company was one of the first in the state to get licensed.
Pastor Bruce Rice said many ministers are mobilizing support.
"It is delusional to think that Video Gambling will not have a negative effect on our city,” Rice said. “It is a tax on the poor, the most vulnerable citizens of our city, and can have a devastating effect on families. How does video gambling enhance the quality of life of Quincy, Illinois? For every $1 the city gains, it will spend $3 according to most independent surveys on the affects of gambling, including video gambling. I hope the City Council will at the
least put off a vote until our community has an opportunity to have input. "
Jim Perry owns the Instant Replay bar at 2739 Chestnut. He said any opposition to video gaming “should have already been registered” since it is state law and both of Quincy’s representatives to the Illinois Legislature, Sen. John Sullivan (D-Rushville) and State. Rep. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) voted for video gaming as a way to increase funds for the capital infrastructure bill.
“I think the argument…whether this is good…or bad…has already been made,” Perry said. “It’s an issue of telling what you ought to do versus telling you, legally, you can’t do it. I have never had one of these machines before while other establishments have. Now, they’re legal. And it’s money that we can ill afford to lose out on now. We let millions go over the LaGrange (Missouri) when they got the boat (Mark Twain Casino).”
Quincy Mayor John Spring says while the final decision rests with the Council, the ordinance merely puts the city code in line with state law. He says he’s neutral on the issue but the city code already allows bingo and raffles.
Alderman Kyle Moore (R-3th Ward) said he was leaning in favor of voting for the ordinance, which is scheduled to get a second reading Monday night and should have its final reading at the July 30 Council meeting.
“I don’t see where we’re expanding gambling, we’re regulating amusement that is going unregulated at the moment,” Moore said. “These machines are in many bars already. I understand the opposition, but we already have sporting leagues, raffles and bingo.”
Alderman Dan Brink (R-5th Ward) said he has received constituent calls asking him to oppose the measure.
“I have received a couple of e-mails and calls in my ward and they are expressing their desire for me to vote no on the issue…however, based on the information I have looked at, the State of Illinois has passed this as a way to create a stream for the capital plan and we need to correct our ordinance to be in line with that. So I will support it.”
Brink also said “As a City Council member, is it my job to decide what is morally right? Each person needs to make it their choice if they are going to partake in video gambling if they want. Anything you do like this should be done in moderation.”