This is the vote the gambling lobby didn't want you to have

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By Nona Tepper

If you haven't heard, the Forest Park Review is fact-checking every campaign flier this election season, in an effort to inform voters. Keep in touch: ntepper@wjinc.com or jill@oakpark.com

Flier Name: "This is the vote the gambling lobby didn't want you to have"

Specs: 4-by-11, glossy, two-sided

Submitted to the Forest Park Review: Oct. 11

This red, white and blue flier offers a few claims:

1)    "Can Village Hall stop tacky gambling signs?"

"Quite simply, if you single out signage dealing with video gaming alone it will not [hold up in court]. Violates the First Amendment. Plain and simple." –Tom Bastian, Forest Park Village Attorney

This statement cites Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 135 S.Ct.2218, 576 U.S._(2015); the Village of Forest Park Town Hall Debate 7/12/2016 52:50; and an article published in the Review titled, "Signage issues at the heart of referendum campaign" TRUE

In "Reed v. Town of Gilbert," a 2015 case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, justices found that municipalities cannot regulate speech based on its content.

"Innocent motives do not eliminate the danger of censorship presented by a facially content-based statute, as future government officials may one day wield such statutes to suppress disfavored speech. That is why the First Amendment expressly targets the operation of the laws—i.e. the "abridgement of speech"—rather than merely the motives of those who enacted them," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his opinion.

In the July 2016 Forest Park Town Hall debate, village attorney Thomas Bastian does say the ordinance would not hold up in court because it violates the First Amendment. We found him clarifying that point at the 1:01:07 mark.

In a Review article, titled "Signage issues at the heart of referendum campaign", attorney Brendan Healey, a partner at the Chicago-based Mandell Menkes LLC law firm, who specializes in First Amendment cases related to video gaming advertising, said a video gaming sign ban would likely not hold up in court, even if bar owners must agree when they receive their liquor license that they will respect all village ordinances.

"Although there are laws out there regulating gambling advertising in certain states, there is also this idea that if the underlying activity is legal then advertising about that activity is legal because you're not aiding and abetting any illegal act," Healey told the Review.

Twelve bar owners have signed an agreement promising never to display video gaming signs outside their buildings. Owners from O'Sullivan's Public House, Blueberry Hill, Healy's Westside, Beacon Pub, Duffy's, Fat Duck, Doc Ryan's, R Place, Slainte, Murphy's, Mugsy's and The Golden Steer signed the agreement.

2)  False Promises

This is a general statement that the Review cannot fact-check.

"The gambling lobby claimed that video gambling would lower taxes and fees, but they have gone up, not down, since gambling was implemented two years ago." This statement cites an article in the Review titled, "Please hear our side on video gaming;" the Village of Forest Park Village Council minutes from 2/13/2017, 11/27/2017 and 5/29/2018; and the Forest Park Budget Meeting—Revenue—The FPAC 10/5/2017 TRUE

In an August 2016 letter to the Review, a group of 25 bar owners and friends wrote: "We are losing business and so many businesses to neighboring towns. This hurts our local tax base, making everyone's taxes higher and forcing the village to reduce services." Proponents of gambling argued that video gambling would lower taxes.

At village council meetings in February and November 2017, and May 2018, village council members voted unanimously each time to increase motor vehicle sticker fees, water rates, and fines related to expired parking meters and cars parked in no parking zones.

At a village budget workshop in October 2017, staff studied ways to increase revenue to the village, focusing in on a sewer tax, a fee increase to those parked in village lots, charging for parking on Madison Street and more.

3)    a) "Video Gambling Is A Bad Bet For Forest Park"

This is a general statement the Review cannot fact-check.

b)    "For every $1.00 a patron loses, Village Hall only collects $0.05."

This statement cites 230 ILCS 40/60 subsection a/b. TRUE, BUT…

The village does collect a nickel for every $1 a patron loses, according to 230 ILCS 40/60 subsection a/b. The village also collects an annual $5,000 license fee and $25 machine terminal fee from every business with a video gambling machine.

c)    "Not enough to keep our taxes and fees from getting raised." TRUE

Since gambling has been legal in Forest Park, the village has raised ambulance fees, parking fees, water rates, increased fines and more. Although the property tax rate technically decreased year over year—from an average of 12.78 percent in 2016 to 11.38 percent in 2017, according to the Cook County Assessor—the village levied the full amount it could those years, said Village Administrator Tim Gillian. The village of Forest Park is subject to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, which limits property tax levy increases to 5 percent or the consumer price index, whichever is lower. 

c)    "Not worth the headaches a downtown saturated with gambling can bring." This statement cites "Can't Stop the One-Armed Bandits: The Effects of Access to Gambling on Crime" READ THE STUDY

The Review cannot comment on such an opinionated statement.

From September 2012 to July 2016, the study found that access to gambling led to an average 6.7 percent increase in property crimes and 7.5 percent increase in violent crimes in Chicago, a municipality that does not have legalized video gambling. "Can't Stop the One-Armed Bandits" studied how gambling in such nearby areas as Forest Park affected crime in the city. It found that, the closer Chicago residents lived to a video gambling terminal, the higher the chance of crimes like sexual assault, aggravated battery, robbery, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.

Authors Nicholas Bottan, of Cornell University; Andres Ham, of Universidad de los Andes in Colombia; and Ignacio Sarmiento-Barbieri, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, published the study in August 2017. This study is not peer-reviewed, and the Review does not know whether it was produced as a master's thesis, research initiative, etc.

SENT BY: Let Forest Park Vote on Video Gaming, which is a ballot initiative committee created in December 2016 to support a vote on gambling.

Resident Jordan Kuehn is listed as its chairman. It's headquarters is 7301 W 25th St in North Riverside, which is a UPS Store. The group reported $2,739 in its most recent quarterly earnings report to the Illinois State Board Elections on Oct. 15, with the majority of funds appearing to come from residents.

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com

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