LANSING | Throughout the summer, businesses and groups such as the American Legion repeatedly showed up at Village Board meetings asking municipal officials to change local ordinances to legally permit video poker machines.
But now the local residents who don’t want to see more gambling are making their opinions known.
Several used the public comment portion of Tuesday's Village Board meeting to say they don't want the video poker machines in Lansing. Several cited the potential for social ills, with anti-gambling activist Kathy Gilroy, of west suburban Villa Park, saying people potentially can lose $150 an hour playing video poker, or a monthly mortgage payment in three hours.
“Why would we want to approve such a thing for our community,” said resident John Klompmacher, who cited reports about problems that arose in Oregon after that state made video poker machines legal. “This is not good for the long term well-being of our community.”
Their views came as village officials are preparing for a Committee of the Whole session Oct. 2, at which trustees are likely to debate a proposal put forth by Village President Norm Abbott.
Under that proposal, the village's ban on gambling would remain in effect. But an exemption would be created for the Lansing businesses that used to have gambling machines for amusement purposes.
As Abbott sees it, only those businesses should be allowed to apply for state licenses for video poker machines, which would pay out prizes. Their receipts would be taxed by the state, with some of the proceeds returned to local governments.
Abbott said attorneys are still drafting an ordinance that could be given a final vote by the Village Board some time during October.
Local resident Milt Van Drunen said he wishes Lansing would “stand firm” against such action. He cited the creation of the Illinois Lottery in 1974 and of riverboat casinos in 1990, saying he does not think either has made significant improvements to Illinois.
“Are we better off than we were in 1974 or 1990?” he asked.
Carl Smith Sr., a 66-year resident of Lansing, said he thinks video poker is contradictory to his idea of what his hometown should be.
“We want to be the town of families,” he said. “We should keep the vice out of our town.”
Not swayed was Kevin Galecka, of G3 Gaming LLC in Lansing, who said he still supports having video poker machines in area businesses if it helps make them profitable.
“It doesn't benefit Lansing if there are more vacant buildings and other companies going out of business,” he said.