By Nona Tepper
It must be the loyal customers, said Oz McNamara, manager of Duffy's Tavern. That's the only reason he can think of for why Duffy's has bested all the bars in Forest Park, earning $54,224 since video gaming came to the village, the most out of area establishments.
"I know we haven't had any problems in here because of it," McNamara said. "It's helped us, so I'm all for it. I've never played a game myself, and I don't plan on it, but people like them."
In the little more than a year since video gaming was legalized in Forest Park, area establishments have raked in more than $357,000 in combined revenue, according to data obtained Jan. 11 from the Illinois Gaming Board. These bars and restaurants have returned $149,152 in taxes, plus licensing and machine fees from video gaming to the village since January 2017. Sixteen bars in Forest Park offer electronic gambling, and have established 69 total video gaming consoles. These local machines have paid out more than $11 million; players have put in $12.1 million.
O'Sullivan's Public House ranks a close second in electronic gambling revenue, pulling in $54,092 in video gaming funds since January 2017.
James Watts, owner of O'Sullivan's, has hired an attorney to dispute the validity of the petitions submitted by Let Forest Park Vote on Video Gaming, a political action committee that seeks to get local voters to weigh in on the practice via a binding referendum in the March primary election. A spokesman for the Cook County Clerk said their office hopes to have a signature review of Let Forest Park Vote's petitions scheduled by Jan. 21.
If the group's petitions prove valid, lawyers from pro- and anti-gaming forces will debate whether there's room on the March ballot for the Let Forest Park Vote's questions. Only three questions are allowed on any ballot, and Mark Hosty already submitted three questions to be debated. Let Forest Park Vote questions the timeliness of the questions submitted by Hosty, a River Forest resident, former commissioner and general manager of Healy's Westside. Hosty submitted in November 2016 for the 2018 ballot. If Let Forest Park Vote is successful in getting their question on the March ballot, and residents vote against the practice, electronic gambling will be outlawed in the village.
Right now, the state limits the number of video gaming machines per bar to five, which is how many the majority of Forest Park bars offer. But more consoles does not necessarily mean more revenue.
Oak Leaf Lounge offers three video gaming machines and has earned $1,070 in revenue, the least of all the bars in the village. Meanwhile, Amy's Wine House offers two electronic gambling machines and has earned $1,157; the Golden Steer Steakhouse also offers two video gambling machines and has earned $7,894 since January 2017.
This story has been updated to reflect that the state limits the number of video gaming machines to five at any establishment and to correct the address of Scratch Deli & Cafe in the sidebar.