Restaurant- and bar-goers wagered just over $300,000 at the five Forest Park establishments offering video gaming in February 2017, netting the village $1,349.17, according to documents from the Illinois Gaming Board.

But even as Forest Park’s gaming scene continues to mature, there are several community members still working to get a binding referendum on a local election ballot, which, if successful, would outlaw gaming in the village. This tactic has failed several times in the past, including in November 2016 and, most recently, in a push to get the question on the upcoming April 4 election ballot.

“We are doing what we’ve been doing,” Jordan Kuehn, chairman of Let Forest Park Vote on Video Gaming, said March 23. “We’ve been collecting signatures since our last effort failed. Our efforts are continuing.”

The five Forest Park gaming spots are Duffy’s Tavern, Slainte Irish Pub, Chalk, R Place Bar and Grill, and FatDuck Tavern. There are a total of 24 gaming terminals among the five businesses, which are, save for R Place on Harlem Avenue, spread along a few block stretch of Madison Street. Machines at Duffy’s Tavern, 7513 Madison St., got the bulk of the wagered money, around $100,000, or about a third of the total, Illinois Gaming Board documents show.

Kuehn’s committee has just under $1,000 in funds, according to its latest quarterly report, filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections. But, Kuehn said, his group is concentrating on getting signatures and will expand fundraising efforts in the future. He did not know the total number of Forest Parkers involved with his committee.

Kuehn would also not say how many signatures the committee has collected. Still, he was optimistic.

“We’re in a good position,” Kuehn said. “Right now, we’re comfortable with where we’re at.”

As reported by the Review in November 2016, Mark Hosty, a local bar owner, filed three petitions for advisory referenda with the village clerk late last year, which effectively precluded putting the gaming referendum on the April 4 ballot.

The questions voters will see on the ballot are: 

Should the Village of Forest Park restrict tobacco sales to only those persons over the age of 21?

Should the Village of Forest Park use the estimated $200,000 in future video gaming license revenue to lower property taxes on residents?

Should the Village of Forest Park work to remove the Forest Park students from Proviso High School District 209?

There is a limit of three questions per ballot, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. 

The debate over video gaming has gone on for several years. Voters rejected video gaming nearly 2-1 in a 2013 non-binding referendum. But the Forest Park Village Council adopted a resolution in October 2016 allowing local businesses to apply for video gaming licenses. Business owners in the village have long argued their establishments struggle to compete with other bars and restaurants in neighboring communities that allow gaming, such as Berwyn.

The ordinance, which passed unanimously, prohibits businesses from putting signage in their windows. There is a $5,000 annual fee for the necessary Class V license and an additional $25 fee for every gaming terminal. The total number of Class V licenses allowed by the village is capped at 20.

Forest Park’s portion of the revenue from video gaming wagers goes into the village’s general fund. It is not specifically earmarked, although Village Administrator Tim Gillian mentioned on March 27 paying down village pensions obligations or Madison Street business advertising are possible uses for the new revenue.

When Mark Hosty was reached about the three referendum questions, he said, “I’ve got nothing to say on that. They are what they are. No comment.”

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