Dear Forest Park Residents:

The following legal opinions and information are provided as a public service by the ballot initiative committee Say Yes to a Vote on Video Gaming. 

On behalf of Say Yes, people are currently circulating petitions to place a binding referendum on the ballot pursuant to the Illinois Video Gaming Act, 230 ILCS 40/1, et seq. Say Yes has asked me to provide legal opinions in regards to questions they have been frequently receiving from people in the Forest Park community, and the following are those questions and answers:

Shall video gaming be prohibited in the Village of Forest Park, Illinois?   Yes__ No__

Why is the referendum question worded this way?

The Illinois Video Gaming Act (the “Act”) requires the use of specific language for the referendum question, and the wording on the petitions is written exactly how the Act requires. 230 ILCS 40/70. Substantive deviations from the required language are prohibited by law.

 Does signing the referendum petition indicate my support or opposition to video gaming in Forest Park?

No, the act of signing a referendum petition is not a show of support either for or against video gaming. Signing the petition only indicates that you want the proposition to appear on the ballot and to be voted upon by the people of Forest Park. If you sign the petition, you are still free to vote Yes or No on Election Day.

 Is this a one-sided referendum?

No, the referendum gives every Forest Park voter an equal opportunity to vote for or against the proposition. If the referendum is approved, video gaming will remain illegal in Forest Park. If the referendum is not approved, gaming may become legal.

 What will a Yes vote mean?

Voting Yes for this referendum means you are opposed to video gaming and you believe it should be prohibited in Forest Park.

 What will a No vote mean?

Voting No against this referendum means you are in favor of video gaming and you believe video gaming should be allowed in Forest Park.

Isn’t there already a ban on video gaming in Forest Park?

Yes, video gaming is currently prohibited in Forest Park. The village council previously passed an ordinance to prohibit gaming, as it was authorized to do under Section 27 of the Video Gaming Act 230 ILCS 40/27. However, the council could at any time pass another ordinance to repeal the existing prohibition and to allow video gaming in Forest Park.

 What are the possible outcomes of this referendum?

If a majority of the voters vote Yes for the referendum, the current prohibition of video gaming will continue in full force and effect in Forest Park. If a majority of the voters vote No against the referendum, then the current prohibition of video gaming may be lifted, and gaming may become legal in Forest Park.

 Wasn’t there already a referendum on video gaming in Forest Park?

Yes, in the April 2013 consolidated election there was a non-binding, advisory referendum in Forest Park that asked voters the question, “Should video gaming continue to be prohibited in the Village of Forest Park?” As with all advisory referenda, the purpose was not to create a legal change, but to gather a public-opinion consensus on the topic of video gaming in Forest Park. For this 2013 advisory referendum, 68% voted in favor of continuing the ban on video gaming, and 32% voted against the ban.

 I live in Forest Park but am not registered to vote. How can I register?

Registering to vote has become much easier in recent years, and you can even register online at the State Board of Elections website: https://ova.elections.il.gov/.

You also may register in person at any one of the Cook County Clerk’s offices, or visit the Cook County Clerk’s website for additional voter registration information:  http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/elections/registertovote/Pages/default.aspx.

 If the village council were to overturn its existing ban and legalize video gaming by ordinance prior to the November election, would the referendum override the council’s new ordinance?

Yes, action taken by referendum supersedes action taken by the council. Therefore, even if the council acts to legalize video gaming prior to the November election, if a majority of voters vote Yes for the referendum, gaming would again be prohibited in Forest Park.

 If the village council were to allow video gaming and any establishment owners were to obtain licenses and gaming machines prior to the November election, would those machines have to be removed if the referendum is approved?

Yes, if the referendum is approved in November, then any and all video gaming devices in Forest Park would have to be removed from the village. No licensed establishment could be “grandfathered-in” to keep its gaming devices if gaming is prohibited by ordinance or referendum. Approval of this referendum would create a blanket prohibition against any and all video gaming devices in Forest Park.

 If a registered voter is going to move away from Forest Park before the November election, can he or she still sign the petition at this time?

Yes, every person who is currently a registered voter in Forest Park is eligible to sign the referendum petition, even if the person intends to move away prior to the November election.

 If a person previously lived at a different address within Forest Park and they are still registered to vote at that previous address, should they sign the petition at their previous address or update their voter registration and sign the petition using that new address?

Every petition signer is required to place on the petition the address at which he or she is currently registered to vote. Therefore, a person who has not yet updated his or her voter registration after moving to a new address could only sign the petition using the prior address affiliated with the current registration. However, since people are also required to update their voter registrations after moving, the best practice is for the person to first update his or her voter registration to the new address, and then sign the petition (assuming that the new address is still within Forest Park).

 So, what does “video gaming” even mean in this referendum?

The referendum applies to video gaming as that term is used in the Act, which is limited to gaming terminals that allow money wagering and awards of free games or cash. Neither the Act nor the referendum applies to the kinds of amusement-only video games your children are playing at home or an arcade. Rather, the Act defines a “video gaming terminal” as “any electronic video game machine that, upon insertion of cash, electronic cards or vouchers, or any combination thereof, is available to play or simulate the play of a video game, including, but not limited to, video poker, line up, and blackjack, as authorized by the [Illinois Gaming] Board utilizing a video display and microprocessors in which the player may receive free games or credits that can be redeemed for cash. 

“The term does not include a machine that directly dispenses coins, cash, or tokens or is for amusement purposes only.” 230 ILCS 40/5.

For additional information, please visit the Say Yes to a Vote on Video Gaming website at www.sayyestoavote.com.

Adam W. Lasker is an attorney at law.

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