By Bob Uphues
Video gambling and whether to recommend allowing it in the village of Riverside will be up for discussion by members of the village's Economic Development Commission at their next meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. in Room 4 of the Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road.
Video gambling emerged as a contentious issue in 2015 after a pair of restaurateurs broached the subject of allowing the gaming devices in their businesses. Riverside's code expressly prohibits the machines, which were allowed by state legislators in 2012.
While a number of Illinois communities, including nearby LaGrange, LaGrange Park, Oak Park and River Forest prohibit video gambling machines, most of Riverside's neighbors allow them. And some municipalities, like North Riverside, have embraced the idea—and the resulting revenue the devices bring in.
In addition to getting one-sixth of the 30-percent tax the state of Illinois imposes on net income from video gambling, municipalities have been creative in finding additional revenue streams related to the devices.
For example, even though non-home rule communities like North Riverside are limited by state law from charging a licensing fee of more than $25 per machine per year, they can regulate the businesses themselves in different ways.
North Riverside has welcomed gaming parlors, which often have friendly, non-threatening female names such as Betty's and Anna's and Lacey's. But such establishments, where the sale of food and alcohol is incidental to the gambling, pay a premium for their liquor licenses.
The annual fee for a full liquor license for a gambling parlor in North Riverside is $12,000. A license to serve just beer and wine in a gambling parlor is $10,000 a year.
Presently, North Riverside has four such gambling parlors and has applications in for two more. The village also is home to a gambling parlor tucked inside a gas station minimart. Those five businesses are the top five video gambling revenue generators in North Riverside.
In 2017, through July, North Riverside had realized $114,214 in revenue from video gambling and is on track to collect about $200,000 by year's end. In all of 2016, North Riverside collected $167,298 in video gambling tax revenue.
A whopping $9.2 million had been pumped into the 53 machines housed within the 11 North Riverside establishments offering video gambling during the first seven months of 2017.
While just a couple of Riverside business owners have called for allowing video gambling, the reaction of residents to the idea back in 2015 was hostile. In August, when Village President Ben Sells remanded the discussion of video gambling to the Economic Development Commission, he appeared ambivalent.
"I think there would have to be a pretty compelling case made to me," Sells said at the time.
This story has been edited to reflect a change in the location of the commission's Sept. 14 meeting. It will now be held in Room 4 on the main floor of the township hall.