The Council hopes to vote whether to allow video gaming in establishments with liquor licenses at its Dec. 17 meeting. Alderman James Levi expressed mixed feelings while Aldermen Brad Slavin and Eric Falberg offered reasons to bring the machines to town.
“We’re looking for ways to augment (revenue) with ways other than property taxes,” Falberg said. “This is an issue we’re in touch with. So far I have not seen any negatives from a policing standpoint,” he added trying to allay citizen concerns about ill effects on the community.
Slavin cited a study from Lindenhurst taking into account the tangential effects of gambling there as well as in Antioch, Lake Villa, Round Lake, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Heights, Round Lake Park, Mundelein and Wauconda. “They all reported zero issues with any kind of negative impact.”
While Slavin and Falberg were advocating the benefits of the machines as a revenue source, Levi was torn between the need for income and the opposition of his constituents.
“I’m struggling with this,” Levi said. “Is taking the money the satisfying way to go when my ward is leaning (against it)? Everyone (there) is vehemently opposed or indifferent.”
When it came time for public comment, a representative of the gaming industry claiming to represent some of Highwood’s bar owners spoke in favor of the ordinance while four citizens were against it. Two strongly favored a referendum to let the voters decide.
“If you think the money you get won’t be offset by declining real estate values and less tax revenue you have to wake up,” Paula Bernstein said. “Go to referendum. What would be better than that?”
Falberg and Slavin claim income to Highwood from the machines will be between $72,000 and $75,000 dollars. “That’s a very conservative number,” Slavin said.