A bid by the owners of a Brookfield gas station to win approval for converting a portion of the minimart into a video gambling room appears doomed after village trustees unanimously spoke out against the idea at their committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 23.
Punnoose Thachet, president of MT&T Inc., which operates the Mobil gas station at 9137 Ogden Ave. in Brookfield, approached the village through attorney Lauren DaValle in late September about changing the business’ liquor license to pave the way for installing gaming machines.
The gas station presently has a liquor license that allows it to sell package goods for off-premises consumption. However, Illinois law requires establishments that offer video gambling to have a license allowing them to serve liquor on premises.
At the Nov. 23 committee of the whole meeting, the gas station owner was represented by DaValle, associate attorney at Odelson Sterk Murphey Frazier McGrath Ltd. That law firm represents Lucky Lincoln Gaming, a video gambling terminal operator.
DaValle attempted to assuage trustees’ fears of the gas station becoming a place where customers might gas up, down a drink or two and then drive off, by saying the Mobil station owners didn’t intend for the video gambling area to operate as a tavern.
Because of the state law, the business was required to obtain a liquor license permitting onsite consumption of alcohol. But on-premises consumption was not something the business was looking to encourage.
“The consumption license was what they need in order to get the video gaming. That is their end goal,” DaValle told trustees. “Obviously, COVID is hitting the business sector pretty hard and video gaming would add to their revenue, and that is why they made this application.”
While the village board will vote on granting the liquor license change at their meeting on Dec. 14, it doesn’t appear to have much of a chance.
Trustees swatted away the proposal, with Trustee Brian Conroy, in particular, saying he wanted no part of such an arrangement, having experienced a gas station gaming location on an out-of-state trip in the past month. A woman playing at a terminal was accompanied by two children, Conroy said, one sitting on the floor and one playing with a doll.
“It was heartbreaking to see,” Conroy said. “To me, it’s not the least bit appealing or something I’d want to see. … I don’t see anything desirable about this.”
DaValle responded to Conroy’s story by saying children by state law are not allowed in video gambling areas and that the area would be isolated from the rest of the minimart. But, other trustees were in agreement with Conroy’s assessment of expanding video gambling outside of traditional bars and restaurants.
“I don’t see anything good that will come out of this,” said Trustee David LeClere, who also worried about allowing onsite alcohol consumption at a gas station.
Trustee Michael Garvey emphasized the village’s conscious choice of not allowing standalone video gambling parlors by requiring bars and restaurants to be in business for a year before allowing them to apply for video gambling privileges.
President Kit Ketchmark noted that a few years ago the owner of a Brookfield laundromat sought and was denied permission to place video gambling terminals in his business.
“If this were to be at the Mobil gas station, what keeps the other three or four gas stations in town from asking for the exact same thing?” Ketchmark asked.
Luck Lincoln Gaming provides video gambling terminals to scores of Illinois establishments, including a number of gas stations. They are the terminal operator for machines at North Riverside Gas Mart, owners of a BP station at 2558 Desplaines Ave. in North Riverside.
In addition to that gas station, there is a video gambling parlor called the King Cobra Lounge carved out of the minimart at the Citgo gas station at 8545 Cermak Road in North Riverside. It is not associated with Lucky Lincoln Gaming.