If the village’s mail-survey is any indication, Forest Parkers oppose video gambling in town by a 4-1 margin, the village announced March 20.

Village hall released the results of the “straw poll” sent by mail in February inside water bills to households in Forest Park.

On the survey, residents were asked: “Would you like to see the village of Forest Park allow Video Gambling in its liquor establishments?”

Of 500 surveys returned, 390 circled “no,” 88 responded “yes” and 22 responded “undecided,” according to the press release.

“If this ‘straw poll’ is any indication of the tone of the residents, which I believe it is, then the council technically will not need to do anything because gambling is currently illegal in Forest Park,” Mayor Anthony Calderone wrote in the letter.

A non-binding referendum question on the same subject will appear on the April 9 ballot.

The village press release noted that because fewer voters traditionally participate in local elections, the mayor wanted to combine results of the poll and the referendum to gauge the opinions of “a substantial amount of residents on this important subject matter and thereby put the issue to rest.”

In a twist, voters will vote “yes” on the referendum if they don’t want video gambling to be legalized in Forest Park.

The referendum language states:

“Should video gaming continue to be prohibited in the Village of Forest Park?”

So voters will need to vote “yes” if they oppose video gambling and “no” if they support it.

Bar owners organize to support video gambling

Meanwhile, a “loose” group of 17 bar owners have banded together to try to influence voters to support the referendum, said Blueberry Hill owner Martin Sorice.

The group, which calls itself “Keep Forest Park Competitive,” has hung pro-gambling signs in local taverns and was distributing “vote no” palm cards at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, March 10.

“If we don’t get video gaming, I believe it will adversely affect businesses in town, and many of the bars may go out of business,” Sorice said.

“It’s about Madison Street not being a destination. Some of our customers are going to places where the games are legal,” he said. “Even if it’s only 10 percent of our customers that can make a difference,” he added.

The group paid for a robo-call survey Wednesday to land lines in Forest Park. The call asked if the resident had heard of the referendum, whether the resident supported video gambling and if using gambling revenue to pay for improvements in streets and sewers in Forest Park would affect the voter’s opinion.

“We are trying to communicate to voters and business owners,” Sorice said. “We will try to do everything we can that’s legal and ethical to swing people to our side.”

But, he said, laughing, “We will not be passing out cigars, $2 bills and free drinks after you vote.”

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...

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