Clarendon Hills tavern owner not happy about likely video gambling ban
Jack Tracy, the owner of Tracy's Tavern on 55th Street in Clarendon Hills, wants to have video gambling machines installed inside his business. The Clarendon Hills Village Board is scheduled to vote on an ordinance prohibiting the machines Aug. 20. | Chuck Fieldman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 20, 2012 9:10AM
CLARENDON HILLS — The owner of Tracy’s Tavern is looking at Monday’s likely adoption by the Clarendon Hills Village Board of an ordinance prohibiting video gambling as another example of how he’s been mistreated.
Jack Tracy bought the business at 401 55th St. in 1985 and believes he’s had virtually no cooperation over the years from village officials.
“It started back in 1985 with a parking plan the board wanted and then took a year to approve after I submitted it,” Tracy said. “We’ve had an issue for years about occupancy, the number of people legally allowed in here. We’ve done everything we possibly could to eliminate any problems the village has had, and this, with the video gaming machines, is a continuation of all of the above.”
The Village Board directed staff to draft an ordinance that prohibits video gambling; the board is to vote on the ordinance Monday. In general, trustees spoke out against allowing video gambling.
The Illinois Video Gaming Act, adopted in 2009 by state lawmakers, allows up to five video gambling machines in facilities with valid liquor licenses. The law is written so that communities not wanting video gambling must take action prohibit it. If no such action is taken, video gambling is allowed by default.
“I didn’t think the board wanted to allow video gambling de facto,” Village Manager Randy Recklaus said. “We knew about the state regulations and found on the Illinois Gaming Commission website that Tracy’s had applied to the state for a permit.”
Tracy said his reason for wanting video gambling machines inside his business is simple.
“We’re looking to improve our bottom line in what I call a depression, not a recession,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of avenues for additional revenue sources.”
Tracy said he doesn’t understand why he shouldn’t be permitted to have video gambling machines inside his business.
“If the state says it’s OK, I don’t see why it should be a problem,” he said. “I can walk into the hardware store in downtown Clarendon Hills and buy a lottery ticket; that’s no different, it’s still gambling.”
Recklaus doesn’t agree.
“This is about video gambling and if it’s appropriate,” he said. “The board doesn’t have the opportunity to regulate lottery sales, but the state allows municipalities to regulate video gambling.”
Recklaus noted a 2010 survey of residents found about 75 percent said they didn’t want video gambling in the village.
Even if the Village Board prohibits video gambling, it’s a decision that can be reversed.
“The board may want to see how this plays out in other communities for a while, and a change can always be made in the future,” Recklaus said.
An outside operator, who would get 35 percent of money put into machines, would install the video gambling machines. The business owner would get 35 percent, while the state would get 25 percent. The village’s take would be 5 percent.
Machines would not dispense cash, but rather vouchers that could be placed into an ATM for payment.
Clarendon Hills Village Manager Randy Recklaus said a typical video gambling terminal generates $70-$90 a day, according to information from the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. He said the village’s share from one machine, based on operation every day of the year, would be about $1,250.
Recklaus said nine businesses in the village have liquor licenses that would make them eligible to have video gambling machines if they are not prohibited by local ordinance.