Supreme Court won't rule on owners' video gaming appeal

Referendum likely to make November ballot

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By Nona Tepper

Illinois' highest court on June 6 declined to hear Forest Park bar owners' case for stopping a village-wide vote on video gaming. 

The state Supreme Court chose not to hear the appeal of James Watts, owner of O'Sullivan's Public House, who asked the court to knock the question "Shall video gaming be prohibited in the village of Forest Park?" off the November election ballot. 

The question is binding, which means that if a majority of Forest Parkers were to vote against the practice, video gaming — which is now allowed — will be outlawed in the village. 

"We're disappointed," Watts said. "We are prepared to have it on the referendum. We think residents of Forest Park will understand the value of the revenue that's raised by gaming for the village and the business community." 

He estimated video gaming will bring in approximately $200,000 for Forest Park this fiscal year, which he said will help plug the village's more than $1 million deficit. "It would be very difficult for the village to fill that void without some form of tax increases" otherwise, he added. In addition to generating revenue for the village, he said, video gaming is keeping bar and restaurant owners' businesses afloat, and several have reinvested the money in community institutions. 

Holding public hearings to get residents amped up about video gaming is something bar owners would do ahead of the November election, said Watts, noting that he's not yet sure of his next legal step since he hasn't had a chance to speak with his attorney. James Nally is on vacation until July 16, and did not respond to interview requests. His office said they would not comment on his cases while he was away. 

Ed Mullen, attorney for the Let Forest Park Vote on Video Gaming political action committee, said the Appellate Court must still issue a mandate to the Cook County Circuit Court.

"In my experience, the mandate will tell the Circuit Court and the Forest Park Electoral Board that the referendum will be on the ballot. That's my expectation, but until we get it I'm not sure what it will say," said Mullen, adding that he expects the appellate court to issue the mandate soon. 

There is still a pending appeal at the appellate level — bar owners contend that signatures Let Forest Park Vote gathered before the last general election in April 2017 should be dismissed — but Mullen said he doesn't know how bar owners could pursue that line of reasoning since courts have already ruled against that argument. He is confident the binding referendum will appear on the November ballot. 

"Honestly, I think this is how the Forest Park Electoral Board should have decided in the first instance," Mullen said. "We shouldn't have had to deal with the Supreme Court and everything else." 

Jordan Kuehn, president of Let Forest Park Vote on Video Gaming, said he's glad the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case. Come November, Kuehn said he will vote against video gaming. 

"Personally, I think it looks tacky. I'm also upset about the way it was brought into place," he said. "I think our current village representatives did not serve the constituents like they should have. I think they decided to bring it in based on whatever they wanted, certainly not based upon the feelings of the people they represent." 

Before the November vote, Kuehn said his group will likely hold a few informational sessions for residents, where they'll present data and specific studies about how video gaming has affected the Chicagoland area. 

"I just hope everyone gets out, votes and contributes to the discussion," he said. 

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com 

Reader Comments

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Rosalio Medina from Forest park  

Posted: July 27th, 2018 10:42 PM

I don't have problem with videogame ,I have a problem on the way it was lay out,trying to undermine people ,by principle is wrong, tell the truth ,I have many business owners friend and want them to sacced,but do not undermaining people .

Bill Kennedy from Oak Park  

Posted: July 15th, 2018 10:58 PM

(1) We don't believe that the residents have the capacity to comprehend the benefits of video gambling (and/or) we are so important that the residents don't deserve a say in what goes on in their community (or) the lies of the industry/terminal operators, for whom we are pawns, regarding the benefits of video gambling clearly are not flying with the residents, so therefore we will file an appeal to block a vote. (2) Appeal denied. (3) Whoops! Well, we believe Forest Parkers will understand the value...which... is why we filed? This is comical. I would love to see who is paying the legal bills here. Whether it was above board, or in a paper bag, I'm going to guess it was Gold Rush Gaming. I am not from Forest Park. I guess my "stake" in Forest Park is wishing the best for my neighbors. At the very least, hoping you get to decide what goes on in your community. A novel idea, I know. Forest Parkers, best wishes in November if some other absurd stunt doesn't prevent it from happening. "You are sheep among wolves, be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves."

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: July 15th, 2018 5:08 PM

No, I got your point, John. Didn't mean to sound disrespectful to it. It's just that people have been making noises for years about how FoPa bars are struggling, and can't continue to be economically viable without the gambling revenue. Frankly, as I've said repeatedly, I don't have a problem with video gambling. I have a problem with political thuggery and lies, like a lot of people do. And frankly, I don't believe most bar owners aren't making enough money, I believe they're not making as much as they'd like to make. That's a significant distinction..

Jerry Webster  

Posted: July 15th, 2018 12:19 PM

John, I remember that not to long ago people were concerned about vacate store fronts. Well, some have been filled and others have been vacated, it is kind of how the system works. Like our "failed" mall, some left and were replaced by others. The village says that some of the new mall customers will help us get in the black or close to it. Maybe if the bar owns were more village friendly but they don't seem to be. They are more like the church on Hannah, don't what to live here or support us, just use us and live else where. Just like little kids, if I can't have my way I will take my ball and bat and leave.

John Gorny  

Posted: July 15th, 2018 9:46 AM

I forgot to mention the gambling revenue that would also be lost.

John Gorny  

Posted: July 15th, 2018 9:19 AM

Bill: I apologize for being so vague. I spoke of specifics in my comment. I should have supplied them. I wanted to know what the people who oppose gambling think should be done in the following hypothetical situation. One of the things that the bar owners said a long time ago was that if gambling remained illegal in Forest Park, they might move their businesses to localities where they could have gambling. If that happened, what would be the plan to deal with that situation? How would they fill the empty spaces? I don't think store front churches would be here. I'm speculating that bars generate sales tax revenue which would be lost if let's say a doctors office moved in. How would that lost revenue be recovered? I don't see a viable plan.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: July 14th, 2018 9:27 PM

Help me out here. Besides Molly Malone's/Brian Boru's. which was/were not just a bar, but a sizable restaurant operation, Carole's Place, which was sold because the owners wanted to retire, and the shuttered Hideout, what other FoPa bar has closed in the past 10 years? On Madison? On Randolph?

John Gorny  

Posted: July 14th, 2018 6:38 PM

I won't expect store front churches to come to town. However, what does come to town? If the ban goes through and the bar owners close their doors, what is the specific plan to be implemented? What is step one, two and three?

Michelle Woehrle  

Posted: July 14th, 2018 12:46 PM

This is a surprising angle to take, proponents of video gambling! The idea that "storefront churches" are going to take over town if we vote against allowing video gambling? I guess Oak Park and River Forest are overrun by store front churches since they have no video gambling, which is what you're scared of?

Jerry Webster  

Posted: July 13th, 2018 6:12 PM

Sorry Gina, no, what I meant was not everything was going to turn into a store front church or some other non profit. The church she used on Hannah is still a church although not a town friendly one. There are a number of businesses in town that are not going away because they not have VG. I was just pointing out that hers was just another type of fear mongering. I just forgot to complete my thoughts, hopefully I made it a little clearer this time. By the way, the mall didn't fail, some businesses there did and have been replaced.

Gina Garrison  

Posted: July 13th, 2018 4:53 PM

@Jerry - do you mean when Living Word moved to FP she thought we'd have criminals running rampant through the town? Sorry, I'm confused.

Jerry Webster  

Posted: July 13th, 2018 2:47 PM

Gina, Pam is the other side of the coin, the ones who said FP was going to have criminals running rampant in our town. Oh Pam, the non church businesses at the Mall pay taxes.

Gina Garrison  

Posted: July 13th, 2018 12:34 PM

500 block of Hannah church is a storefront church? And what on earth does the sale of an organ have to do with VG?

Pam Fontana  

Posted: July 13th, 2018 11:05 AM

"Obsession"??? Our old failed mall is now a giant church. The church on the 500 block of Hannah that sold off the organ they weren't supposed to sell and they don't know to who? Churches come in when places are failing and losing money. Just drive through the west side of the city leaving FP. Hardly and obsession but if businesses start to fail, churches seem to take over. Just an observation. I thought all the non-gaming people had some great ideas and plans of how to rev up $$ draws into FP. Haven't heard or seen a peep about any great ideas. Unless they are super secret and the reveal will come much later.

Michelle Woehrle  

Posted: July 13th, 2018 10:35 AM

@Pam what is this obsession with "storefront churches"? That is such an odd comment, and very specific.

Pam Fontana  

Posted: July 13th, 2018 10:08 AM

It wasn't 'struck down' Geoff. They declined to hear it. That is quite different, in my opinion. Other villages and cities have had gaming for three years; I have spoken with other owners in other counties, towns and they have been able to do so much more in their establishments with that extra income. Understand this folks that want it to go away. People will still want to play the games. If they are not available here in Forest Park, they will spend their hard earned money (on food and beverages) in other towns. Do you want Madison Street and our other streets with bars, to just go away? And become what? Storefront churches (therefore, no tax money at all to the village)? Will that make all of you happy then? You folks would cut your noses off to spite your face! I will never understand the hatred towards ADULTS spending their extra $$ on gaming. It's not your darn business. We are ADULTS. We will take our $$ elsewhere.

Geoff Binns-Calvey  

Posted: July 12th, 2018 9:37 PM

I look at it this way. Bar owners tried to sell this as "a good deal for everyone in the Village! We all benefit!" And the villagers voted "No." So the bar owners pushed it through, with their nuisance petitions, and lawyers, all the way to the Supreme Court- who struck it down. The way I see it, if someone offers you "a good deal for everyone", but they do everything they can to force you to take it... It's only a good deal, for them. Not you.

Dana Todd  

Posted: July 11th, 2018 7:53 PM

Respectfully, Pam, one can easily measure revenue in short term because it's a defined data point and it's a short term gain. Social and other human impacts typically roll out more slowly, and you would generally need 3 years to gather enough to make a decision on good/bad impacts to the community. We also have to figure out what metrics would be the ones to watch - "crime" is pretty broad, and there may be other metrics that are more closely aligned to having gambling in a city. For example, measuring gambling addiction (anonymous surveys annually), brand impact (surveys of visitors and commuters who pass by the signage), etc. I think trying to connect gambling and crime is somewhat spurious connection, so I'd be more inclined to look at a different set of data to understand the whole picture.

Greg Mitchell from Forest Park  

Posted: July 11th, 2018 10:19 AM

@Pam, While I agree with your premise that the supposed negative aspects of video gaming have not come to fruition, I will vote against having gaming in the village, if only because the forces on the opposite side worked so hard against allowing the people to have their say. I cannot reward bad behavior.

Andrew Cooper  

Posted: July 11th, 2018 10:15 AM

Dana, some of the Village revenue is in the form of bar/machine license fees. I think the Village itself is the only reliable source of information on that. Some also comes from the Village's share of money lost at the machines. Those data are available monthly via the Illinois Gaming Board website. https://www.igb.illinois.gov/VideoReports.aspx

Pam Fontana  

Posted: July 11th, 2018 10:06 AM

To continue your train of thought, Dana, by the same token we should have had enough time to realize that there has been no negative impact (but positive as far as the extra $$ to our village) to the village or increase in crimes because of video gaming. Let's just keep them in town.

Dana Todd  

Posted: July 11th, 2018 8:19 AM

The fiscal impact is "estimated" at $200k - but we should have had enough time by now to get a sense of the actual revenue from the machines already in use here. Where would I go to find that information? Is it being paid in quarterly or annually?

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: July 10th, 2018 3:42 PM

If bar owners truly believed that "residents of Forest Park will understand the value of the revenue that's raised by gaming for the village and the business community," then why did they act so deceitfully and dishonorably to block citizens not once, but twice from having a say in the matter? Their mouth says one thing, but their actions say the opposite.

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