With state-sponsored video poker legalized in Illinois, eleven Forest Park taverns are poised to apply to the Illinois Gaming Board to install machines. The only problem is, gambling of any kind is illegal in Forest Park by village ordinance.
Whether the village should vote to amend the local ordinance to permit video gambling, as have other nearby municipalities, was discussed during village council meetings in 2012, but no action has been taken by the council to legalize the poker machines.
Keeping the dialog going, Citizens United in Forest Park will host a forum on video poker, Thursday, Jan. 10 at 7 p.m., at St. Peter’s Church, 500 Hannah Ave.
CU in FP has invited experts from the gaming industry and those who oppose legalizing gambling to speak at the forum and answer citizen questions.
Representing the gambling industry will be Timothy Lattner, from Lattner Entainment, a licensed terminal operator. Local taverns must align with a terminal operating company to install the video poker machines. According to their website, Lattner Entertainment has contracted with Doc Ryan’s and Healy’s Westside in Forest Park, in the event video gaming should “go live.”
Also presenting at the CU in FP forum will be former Forest Park resident Kathy Gilroy. The Villa Park resident has testified for many years about the social impact of gaming on citizenry.
Stan Zegel, publisher of the Winfield Register and a Winfield resident will also speak. Zegel’s newspaper covered a citizen movement in the village of Winfield, which put the issue to a referendum in the Nov. 6 election. More than 2,500 Winfield residents signed petitions to put the issue on the ballot last year, one third of the registered voters in the village. Citizens were activated after the discovery of the village’s plan to outsource the police department to the DuPage County Sheriff’s Dept. to save money. Voters voted against legalizing video gambling in Winfield establishments 57 percent to 43 percent.
The state of Illinois legalized licensed video gambling machines in 2009. At that point, Chicago and many other municipalities passed specific ordinances banning video gambling. But as the economy continued to falter, some neighboring communities have changed their minds. Local ordinances in Brookfield, Berwyn and Lyons, among others, have overridden previous bans on gambling, including the new video gaming machines.
The issue was discussed in Forest Park last summer and fall.
Mayor Anthony Calderone hosted a public discussion on Oct. 25 to hear what residents had to say about video gambling. About 14 people spoke up at the event which had an audience of mostly owners of local taverns and their family members. Gilroy also spoke at the Mayor’s forum. Brian Begley of Morris Gaming in Skokie attended and spoke as well. Local tavern owner Matt Mathey, of Murphy’s Pub, has partnered with Morris Gaming.
In July 2012, Village Commissioner Chris Harris hosted a Facebook “Virtual Townhall.” Mathey and other tavern owners weighed in online, saying they needed the revenue from video poker machines to “provide a fair playing field” with neighboring communities that offer video gambling.