LANSING | Village President Norm Abbott’s voice cracked slightly and he became emotional Tuesday when he explained his reasoning for voting against the views of three trustees who would have preferred to keep local ordinances that ban gambling outright.
When Village Board members cast their vote on the issue of altering the ordinances to bring them into compliance with state laws that now permit video poker and other gambling machines, trustees were split 3-3.
That put Abbott in the position of breaking the tie, and he wound up siding with those trustees who prefer to think of video poker as an economic issue rather than a moral one.
Trustees Terry Kapteyn, Dan Lyzenga and Michael Skrbina were the three trustees who didn’t want video poker machines at local taverns — even though many of those tavern owners have said they need the added income from such machines to remain economically viable.
“I have talked to the three several times about this,” Abbott said, while his voice cracked and he had to stop briefly to regain his composure. “I appreciate the sincerity of their views.”
Under the new ordinance, Lansing businesses that serve “pourable liquor” will be able to apply for licenses from the Illinois Gaming Board to have up to five gambling machines on their premises. Such machines would have to be kept in separate parts of the tavern where people younger than 21 cannot play them.
Also, local taverns would be prohibited from doing anything to advertise the fact that they have such gambling machines, a provision that Village Attorney Timothy Lapp said is unique to Lansing.
Lapp said 17 Lansing businesses qualify, although he said that three have told the village they do not want gambling machines. He also said that those businesses that do want them have indicated a desire to have no more than three machines put in place.
Kapteyn said he would have preferred to put the issue up for a vote in a future election to let residents decide, while Skrbina said he had an aunt whose gambling addiction cost her a marriage and a house.
Lyzenga at one point cited moral objections to gambling in general by saying, “My world view puts God first.” He said he wondered why village officials should do something to benefit the tavern owners, while not doing something to help other types of business.
“If we’re going to do this, then some business like Baker’s Square (restaurant on Ridge Road) … is going to take us to court to say, ‘What are you doing for us?'" Lyzenga said.
But Trustees Julie Butler, Mikal Stole and John DeLaurentis said they saw the need for more income, which the village would get as its share of the proceeds from money raised by the gambling machines that would be licensed by the Illinois Gaming Board.
DeLaurentis said that such measures are preferable to a significant property tax hike, while Stole said he thinks that Lansing cannot behave as if “we are an isolated village in the middle of South Dakota.”
He cited the fact that the bordering towns of Calumet City and Lynwood rushed to change their ordinances to permit the video poker machines, while Indiana offers ample gambling opportunities.
“They all have it, we can’t ignore that,” Stole said.