Berwyn’s 6th Ward Alderman Ted Polashek has some advice for Forest Park as the village considers whether to allow video gaming in the community.
Polashek, who described himself as pro-business and supportive of gaming, said he was fine with video gaming being allowed in Berwyn when the issue arose in the city — though he himself doesn’t play them.
He believes people will just go elsewhere if they want to play the machines. The revenue that gaming would bring in for local businesses and for the city was also a factor in his support, he said.
However, with several years of hindsight about the decision, Polashek said he now wants gaming to be more tightly regulated in Berwyn.
Polashek said he recently proposed an ordinance in Berwyn that would restrict the number of establishments in Berwyn that could have the machines. Partly, he said, this was in response to complaints from owners of non-liquor license establishments and residents that it was getting out of control.
“I proposed a moratorium two weeks ago,” he said. “It’s still in the very early stages. But I think we need to make sure there’s a limit or it will get out of hand.”
At the moment, the moratorium he proposed would immediately stop the issuance of more licenses for the terminals in Berwyn. But, he said, the ordinance will still need to be reviewed by several of the city’s commissions and could change before it is brought to a vote.
Polashek said the main aim of his proposal was to stop Berwyn from looking like a mini-Las Vegas and that the city has already seen a number of businesses open that appear to be in business primarily to attract gamers.
He added that residents and business owners were also complaining about signage surrounding gambling. In particular, some businesses were using neon signs in their windows to attract gamers. He learned that the signs violated signage regulations already on the books in Berwyn.
“So that problem will be corrected easily,” he said. “We just have to enforce the current rules.”
Polashek noted that Forest Park was in a good position to make an educated judgement for their community on whether to allow video gaming based on the experience of nearby municipalities.
“They can look around and see what some of the towns around here have done and base their [policies] on what works for them,” he said. “Be proactive, not reactive.”
First and foremost, he said, the village should hold a public forum on the issue and bring in stakeholders to talk about it. Navigating the issue is a “tightrope walk,” but by bringing residents and business owners together, the village would be more likely to reach a consensus.
His second advice was to look to other communities that allow gaming to build the village’s rules surrounding all facets of the rollout. For example, he would tell the village to review its ordinances regarding advertising and window signage with the village’s attorney and to craft a policy that learns from the best practices of other nearby communities.
Polashek admitted that not everyone in Berwyn is happy with gaming in the community.
“I’ve heard from residents who say it looks like Pottersville,” he said.
Still, the revenue that gaming brings in from licensing the terminals and getting a cut of the revenue it brings in is worth it to him.
“I don’t think there’s a problem with gaming,” he said. “But it definitely needs to be regulated.”