Say what you will about video gambling, it’s been a boon for local bar and restaurant owners in the Chicago suburbs.
And now Riverside is looking to get in on the action.
On Oct. 15, the village board appeared to agree that it would be a good idea to give qualifying businesses the ability to offer video gambling. Among those businesses allowed to offer video gambling are bars and restaurants that possess liquor licenses. Fraternal and veterans organizations can also apply to the state for video gambling terminals.
While village trustees did express some concerns during a discussion of the issue at their Oct. 15 meeting, the message seemed clear: video gambling is on the way in Riverside.
“It’s all around us,” said Trustee Joseph Ballerine. “I think it’s extremely important for us to be on top of this, for us to regulate this.”
Until now, Riverside has steered clear of video gambling. There are just a handful of establishments in Riverside that would be able to offer video gambling, and the revenue the village would be in line to receive can’t match what other nearby towns can reap.
Those businesses holding liquor licenses in Riverside include Mollie’s Public House, The Chew Chew, 34 East Lounge, Little Bohemia, Riverside Restaurant, Quincy Street Distillery and Brookfield Zoo.
But even just a few establishments with video gambling terminals could bring in tens of thousands of dollars to the village, since municipalities receive 5 percent of total local video gambling revenues. The state gets 25 percent. The rest of the revenue is split evenly between the establishments and their gaming machine vendors.
Through September in Brookfield, the 18 establishments that have the games have shared more than $800,000 in video gambling revenue for the year. The 17 establishments in Lyons that offer video gambling have shared more than $1 million so far in 2015.
And the towns themselves have made out. In 2015, Brookfield has collected almost $120,000 through its 5-percent share of taxes on total revenue. Lyons has collected a little more than $150,000. North Riverside, which has just seven gaming establishments, has netted about $80,000 so far in 2015.
Seeing competitors gain what in some cases amounts to a monthly windfall — the Cordial Inn in Brookfield alone has taken in nearly $150,000 in 2015 through September — led Brian Carroll, the owner of Mollie’s Public House in Brookfield, and Scott Zimmer, the owner of The Chew Chew, to see if Riverside might bend on video gambling.
At first, Carroll wasn’t hot on video gambling. He didn’t want the machines in the pub’s main room. But after visiting other establishments, like Ryan’s Public House in Brookfield, he began to look at the devices differently.
“At Ryan’s they’re in a separate room off to the back that’s barely visible,” Carroll said. “I don’t want it in my front room at all.”
As fate would have it, there is a separate room at Mollie’s where the games could be accommodated without jeopardizing the atmosphere of the main pub. Zimmer, according to Village President Ben Sells, is targeting a portion of the restaurant’s upstairs dining room for video gambling terminals.
Keeping the machines as invisible as possible was the only way Trustee Ellen Hamilton would support allowing video gambling in Riverside.
“I recognize the revenue potential for businesses,” Hamilton said. “If they sequester it so they make it invisible to the dining public, I’d support it.”
Trustee Doug Pollock said he didn’t support allowing video gambling.
“I think it cheapens the brand,” said Pollock. “It creates a different atmosphere. I think we need to keep our standards higher.”
But trustees Scott Lumsden and Michael Sedivy, as well as Sells, joined Ballerine in expressing support for allowing video gambling. Sedivy also argued against requiring the machines to be “invisible” to diners. He did say the village ought to ban businesses from hanging out signs promoting video gaming.
“I think our reach should be limited to the exterior,” Sedivy said. “I don’t want blinking signs or hanging banners.”
As for the inside arrangement, said Sedivy, “I think the patrons will tell the owners what they think they need to do.”
Following the Oct. 15 discussion, Sells asked the village’s attorney to craft an ordinance that trustees can vote on in November.