Riverside residents may find an advisory referendum question regarding video gambling on the ballot as early as next March.
At their meeting on Dec. 7, Riverside trustees are expected to review and possibly vote to include a referendum question that’s being prepared by the village’s attorney for possible inclusion on the March 20, 2018 gubernatorial primary ballot.
That’s in addition to a vote on Dec. 7 on whether to direct the attorney to prepare a draft ordinance allowing video gambling in Riverside, which would be considered at a later date.
A vote on drafting the ordinance was initially scheduled in early November, but it was delayed until all seven trustees could be present.
Just prior to the Nov. 2 meeting where that vote was to have been taken, Village President Ben Sells went public in a Landmark op-ed with a blanket opposition to video gambling in Riverside, which left some trustees feeling he was short-circuiting the debate.
Trustee Scott Lumsden said Sells’ action “isn’t good governance.” Debating a draft ordinance would be in keeping with the village board’s approach to controversial topics, Lumsden said.
In addition, trustee Wendell Jisa appeared to support debating a draft ordinance, complete with restrictions on how video gambling would be implemented in Riverside.
The Landmark emailed other trustees for their thoughts on a referendum. One who responded to the Landmark prior to press time was Michael Sedivy, who said he felt “all opportunities to support our local businesses and generate revenue for the village need to be thoroughly discussed and evaluated.”
He said he generally opposed advisory referenda to set policy, because it let elected officials avoid the responsibility of making those decisions. Sedivy also objected to cutting the debate on gambling short.
“I am not yet entirely convinced that appropriate legislation addressing resident concerns coupled with market forces could not create an environment where limited video gaming would be acceptable to a majority of our residents,” Sedivy said.
Trustee Joseph Ballerine earlier this month suggested taking the matter to referendum, saying it was a topic that deserved a vote from voters. The vociferous vocal opposition to video gambling by some has intimidated other residents and business owners from expressing their views on the subject, Ballerine said.
“I think there is a need for a referendum because it’s the only fair way for all people to have their voices heard,” Ballerine said in a phone interview. “Some people who want this won’t come near a board meeting. It’s the only fair way to get through this process.”
Sells told the Landmark he didn’t object to a referendum, but only if it appeared on the next possible ballot, which is in March. Waiting until the gubernatorial election next November was not an option, he said.
“I don’t support the idea of this hanging over the village for an entire year,” Sells said.
The referendum would not be binding. In order for a referendum on video gambling to be binding, proponents would have to collect signatures from 25 percent of registered voters in Riverside and would have to use a referendum question mandated by the state.
The state’s question asks whether gambling should be prohibited, which means a “yes” vote would outlaw gambling, which could be confusing.