Approaching the homestretch to the Nov. 6 election, members of the committee against video gaming in Forest Park delivered their message to a group of more than 30 supporters and interested residents at a forum on Oct. 22.
Forest Park voters will be asked in a binding referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot, "Shall video gaming be prohibited in the village of Forest Park?"
Members of the Let Forest Park Vote committee outnumbered attendees as the starting time approached Oct. 22 but a steady stream of people filled the room before the end of the formal portion of the 30-minute forum at the Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor in Forest Park.
"We weren't sure anybody was going to show up," Kate Nolan, of Let Forest Park Vote, said of the early turnout.
The forum began with Nolan presenting an overview of the committee's stand against video gaming in Forest Park, followed by eight questions submitted by attendees, answered by a panel of committee members. Nick Ardinger, Amy Binns-Calvey and Marty Telalian made up the panel, answering questions that attendees submitted on index cards read by committee member Jordan Kuehn. Following the formal portion of the forum, committee members stayed to meet with about half of the attendees to answer any other questions.
Nolan said a "couple of people" took yard signs and one resident made a donation, noting there were "a lot of people" she did not recognize.
"The energy was good," she said. "There were a lot of astute questions. I was impressed with their variety and depth."
"Folks were interested in hearing more, and we were glad to give them some content," said Ardinger, who noted he recognized some video gaming supporters in the audience.
In her overview, supported by a PowerPoint presentation, Nolan stressed the committee's position that video gaming hurts more than it helps; contended that promises video gaming would lead to lower taxes have not proved true; and noted that Forest Park receives only 5 cents for every dollar spent on video gaming.
She also said she was "outraged" that village officials had approved video gaming despite the majority of residents indicating their opposition through a water bill survey and a subsequent non-binding referendum and cited research showing that video gaming increases property and violent crime; convenience gambling leads to rising social costs; and modern slot machines are designed to keep players playing, which she called a "predatory practice."
In response to questions from attendees, panel members estimated the village has received $300,000 since legalized video gaming began in October 2016 but noted how that revenue is spent is difficult to track because it goes into the village's general fund.
They also stressed that the committee is not against video gaming in general but only against it in Forest Park and raised questions about the so-called "gentlemen's agreement" that bar and restaurant owners will not post large "tacky" signs promoting video gaming in their establishments.
Panel members said they did not have answer for why the union representing the Forest Park firefighters and the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce and Development have publicly stated their support of video gaming in Forest Park nor why not all bar and restaurant owners have video gaming in their establishments or why the village council voted to legalize video gaming. Those questions can only be answered by the union, the chamber, the bar owners and the village officials, they noted.
Ardinger and Nolan agreed the forum "went well" but acknowledged the proximity of the election.
"Now everybody's trying to get to November," he said.
"We've got to get the voters out," she added.