Video gambling in Forest Park taverns will keep the town competitive and help all retail and commercial businesses, said a letter sent March 27 to Chamber of Commerce members from the tavern association calling itself Keep Forest Park Competitive.
Local tavern owners Marty and Lynn Sorice, who are acting as spokespeople for the organization, said video gambling is drawing business away from Madison Street to neighboring towns where video poker machines are legal.
“When the state passed video gaming, it has put us at a competitive disadvantage and a fight for survival,” the letter said. “Many of us will not be around in a couple of years if we fail.”
Sorice has said that at Fox Lake bars he owns, where video gambling is permitted, business “has spiked up quite handsomely.”
The letter offers “signs you can put in your windows” and advises business owners to urge their “employees and any local residents” to vote “no.”
The reason bar owners are asking for a “no” vote is because the referendum language is worded counter intuitively. A “no” vote on the ballot means support for video gambling.
The Sorices are former residents of Forest Park, but like many of the bar owners in town, resides elsewhere and cannot vote on the advisory referendum appearing on the April 9 ballot.
“Vote Yes” signs crop up
Opponents of legalizing video gambling in Forest Park planted red-lettered signs throughout the village Thursday night, asking residents to “Vote Yes” on the advisory referendum on the April 9 ballot.
The group wants the village to continue to prohibit gambling in Forest Park.
“We’re a group of people who don’t think a good idea for Forest Park,” said Marty Tellalian, a former village commissioner.
Tellalian said his group wanted to match the Vote No signs that appeared in bars along Madison Street during the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
He also said the signs serve to clarify language on the ballot, which reads:
“Should video gaming continue to be prohibited in the Village of Forest Park?”
“The sign’s pretty much designed to match the language on the ballot,” Tellalian said. “The ‘Vote No’ signs [in the bars] could be misconstrued,” he added. “They don’t tell you that voting no is bringing gaming to Forest Park.”
Tellalian said he and his group disagree that video gambling would be good for the community.
“I sympathize with bar owners who think they need added income,” Tellalian said. “But we think there’s a potential long-term impact on the village that would not be good.
“We’re worried that our nicer establishments might decide ‘this is not our customer base, we’re better off moving to Oak Park or River Forest,'” he said.