Chalk is expected to be the first Forest Park establishment to offer video gaming later this month. The craft beer house at 7414 Madison St. has already received its video gaming license from the Illinois State Gaming Board and its application for a Class V license from the village is expected to be approved this week. 

Village Administrator Tim Gillian said video gaming terminals have been in place, although not in use, since the end of December, meeting the state requirement that they be in place for at least five days before their use is allowed. Owners of Chalk could theoretically start using the terminals once the village license is granted.

Although Chalk will be the first Forest Park establishment to offer video gaming, it will have competition.

Shanahan’s, 7353 Madison, also has received its state video gaming license but has yet to apply for a village license. Gillian said 16 other establishments have applied for state licenses, with action expected when the Illinois State Gaming Board meets Jan. 25 and 26.

Village officials have noted in the past that applicants for state video gaming licenses face strict requirements, including background checks. The gaming board has broad powers to deny licenses to individuals or businesses based on criminal history, past personal or business activities and associations, or involvement in illegal gambling. 

Before Chalk’s license could be approved, the Forest Park Village Council needed to amend the ordinance allowing video gaming, which was done by a 5-0 vote at Monday’s meeting. Mayor Anthony Calderone explained that the ordinance allowing video gaming, which was passed in October created the Class V license category but did not make any available. The number of licenses available in October was listed as “zero.” Monday’s action increased that number to 20.

According to the ordinance, a Class V license will only be available to a business holding a Class A liquor license for at least a year. All Class A licenses are currently taken and no new ones can be issued unless an existing Class A license holder relinquishes his license or the number of licenses available is increased, which can happen only by village council action.

Village officials explained in October that the requirement for a Class V license applicant to hold a Class A liquor license for at least a year was designed to prevent the appearance of so-called video cafes, a concern many residents had shared at video gaming forums and elsewhere. Unlike bars and restaurants that draw in regular patrons to eat or drink and offer video gaming on the side, the primary purpose of a video café is video gaming.

The annual fee is $5,000 and all licenses will expire on April 30 of each year. Gillian explained the village is charging a pro-rated fee to establishments applying for video gaming licenses before April 30, 2017. Chalk paid $1,666 for four months of its license.

If each of the 42 eligible businesses pay the $5,000 Class V license fee and each business elects to install five video gaming terminals, the most allowed, and pay the $25 per terminal fee, the village could realize as much as $250,000 annually. However, not all of the 42 eligible businesses are likely to apply and not all those that do are likely to opt for the maximum number of terminals.

Video gaming in Forest Park was a contentious issue in 2016 with the issue debated in public forums, town hall meetings and Village Council sessions. Residents voted against video gaming by a wide margin in a non-binding referendum in 2013. An effort to place a binding referendum on the November 2016 ballot was unsuccessful. 

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