Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone released a statement Tuesday announcing two public meetings to discuss whether Forest Park should amend its local ordinances to permit state-sponsored video gambling with cash payouts.

The meetings will take place on Thursday, Oct. 25 and Thursday, Nov. 1 in the basement of Village Hall. Both meetings will start at 7 p.m.

“As your mayor, it’s important for me to hear your views,” Calderone said in a press release. Calderone is also the village liquor commissioner.

As the state of Illinois readies to “go live” with state-sanctioned video gambling to taverns and restaurants across Illinois, some towns have held out, sticking with local ordinances that prohibit video slot machines and poker with cash payouts. Forest Park is one of them, with a 1976 ordinance on the books prohibiting gambling in town, amended in 2004.

But in the three years since the Illinois Gaming Board’s announcement, some towns have changed their minds – most notably, neighbors Berwyn and North Riverside. Oak Park, River Forest and Maywood have announced they will not be permitting legalized video gambling.

Seventy percent of video terminal profits are split evenly between the venue – in this case a Forest Park bar, which can have up to five video terminals – and the gaming company. Twenty five percent would go to the state of Illinois and five percent to the Village of Forest Park.

For the village to earn $300,000 – the amount floated by promoters – each of five terminals in each of 11 bars would have to generate $109,090 per year – composed of $2 bets. That means each of 55 terminals in town would be required to collect around 150 bets per day seven days a week, or 10 bets per hour, non-stop.

Eleven local establishments, so far, have applied for licenses to set up video gaming machines with the Illinois Gaming Board. The process involves filing fees, a criminal background check and fingerprinting. The establishments must also contract with a licensed video gaming company to provide the machines.

They are: Carole’s, Circle Bowl, Doc Ryan’s, Duffy’s Tavern, Healy’s Westside, Hideaway, Jim’s Pour Decision (formerly Zambonie’s), Kevil’s, Murphy’s Pub, the Pines and ‘R Place.

Of those, four have donated directly to Calderone’s election campaign within the past two years. Kevil’s Restaurant, 7228 Circle Ave., donated $689.06 in food to Calderone’s 2011 campaign in November 2010 while Hideaway, 7301 Roosevelt Road, donated $500 in March 2011. Also in April, Oak Leaf Lounge, 7412 W. Harrison, donated $500. R Place, 1527 S. Harlem, donated $250 in November of 2010 and $1,500 in March of 2011.

All four omitted their campaign contributions in their applications the Illinois Gaming Board’s website, in spite of being required by the gaming board to do so.

In other irregularities, the gaming board application for Healy’s Westside omitted the bar’s relationship with Village Commissioner Mark Hosty, answering  “N/A” on a question asking for any relationship between the bar and an elected or public official. Commissioner Hosty works at Healy’s as a manager and has listed himself as “owner” of the tavern on social networking site www.Linkedin.com. Mayor Calderone held his victory party in April, 2011 at Healy’s Westside.

In August, Illinois Gaming Board Spokesman Gene O’Shay told the Forest Park Review that the board would investigate each video machine application only if the Village of Forest Park permitted gaming. He also said the legal department of the Gaming Board would be interested in the discrepancies.

The issue was discussed online during a Facebook “Virtual Town Hall” sponsored by Commissioner Chris Harris in July. Participants included industry spokespeople from an Australian video-gambling company, local bar-owners and citizens.

Harris said he favored a one-year trial period for video gambling with licenses given out by lottery. Bar owners, who’ve already sunk money into the proposals, didn’t like the lottery idea. They also said they feared video gambling patrons would go to bars in neighboring towns.

This article was updated to correct the dates of the public meeting.

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...