LANSING | Village President Norm Abbott says he and his colleagues in municipal government are going to have a serious discussion in coming weeks about whether to resist the siren’s song of gambling.
Abbott concluded a Village Board committee of the whole session Tuesday by telling the trustees they were going to have to address the issue of legalized gambling sometime this summer.
"This is a discussion we’re going to have to have," Abbott said.
At stake is the issue of video poker machines being legalized last year by the state of Illinois, with the intent that taxes on the proceeds would go toward road construction projects across Illinois.
Some communities, including Calumet City and Glenwood, already have made changes to their local ordinances to accommodate such machines within their boundaries.
But in Lansing, local ordinances are clear: Gambling is illegal. Abbott said trustees will have to decide if they want to keep that status quo, or if they are willing to amend their ordinances to accommodate video poker and other gambling machines.
Abbott conceded that state government would provide Lansing with "a small token of funds" if the machines are permitted locally.
As it is, such machines already exist in Lansing, mostly in local taverns. They operate under the category of "amusement machines," which means they’re not supposed to pay out prizes.
Abbott said those machines only would be able to continue operating if they are able to get a state license — which would mean that Lansing would have to loosen its ordinances.
To that end, Abbott said he has heard from the local American Legion hall, and also from the tavern owners, all of whom are urging him to have the Village Board loosen the restrictions on gambling.
On the other hand, the Lansing Pastoral Association, a group of a dozen clergy representing churches in Lansing, also has contacted Abbott and some trustees urging them to keep restrictions in place.
On Tuesday, Abbott asked trustees if they had anything to say about the issue.
Most remained silent. Only Village Trustee Dan Lyzenga stated an opinion.
"I’ve heard from people who are opposed to (gambling), as I am," Lyzenga said. "We don’t need this in our community."