Palos Heights Alderman Jerry McGovern holds up fliers about helping local businesses during a special meeting regarding video gaming. (Photos by Jeff Vorva)
Palos Heights officials hear from both sides on video gaming
By Jeff Vorva
Palos Heights officials took the temperature of the community about video gaming Monday night.
It was very warm for both sides.
More than 80 people showed up at the Palos Heights Recreation Center’s Orchard Room for special meeting of the License, Permits and Franchise Committee for a chance to air their opinions.
For those scoring at home, 21 people spoke. There were 12 people against having video machines in local restaurants and bars, six for it and three that did not express their opinions but had some questions for the committee. Each speaker drew enthusiastic applause whether they were for or against it.
Committee chairman Brent Lewandowski said that in 30 emails he received in the past few weeks, there three out of every four was against video gaming coming to town.
So, what next?
“The purpose of this public hearing was to solicit feedback from the community,” Lewandowski said. “There is an ordinance in draft form for if that would come to a vote for the city council. It would have to come out of this committee.
“It would have to be worked on with the ‘t’s’ crossed and the ‘i’s’ dotted which takes some time. As of right now, this isn’t a one-time thing, and this isn’t your last shot to let us know how you feel. I don’t know what, if anything, will happen moving forward with this but I encourage everybody to continue to give us your feedback for or against or neutral.”
Although residents voted 3,319-2,522 in a nonbinding referendum in 2018 against video gaming, Alderman Jerry McGovern brought the issue back to the forefront in December 2020, when business owners were losing money because of the pandemic.
McGovern who insists that there will be no outside advertising for the machines at the establishments, continued to make his plea Monday for the bar and restaurant owners.
“These are businessmen putting their own monies up,” he said. “Some of them have been here a long, long time. They are just as hard working as you. As a matter-of-fact some of them are putting in 15, 16, 18 hours a day of work.
“I’m just asking you to give them a chance. Let them bring back some of these customers that they lose. Let them have the terminals. That’s all I’m asking.”
He held up a pair of fliers from the pandemic.
“Remember these signs?” he asked. “Support local business? We wanted to support our local businesses and do whatever we possibly can. I’m doing my part.”
Mayor Bob Straz was out of town and could not attend the meeting but Lewandowski read a statement from Straz.
“I’m opposed,” Straz said. “I oppose video gaming in Palos Heights. To me, it is a matter of image. As Palos Heights has been known for its fine restaurants…why would you want to add video gaming to that image?
“Restaurants have been successfully delivering their main product – food. I also feel it is not truly representing the people who, not more than one full election cycle, we are looking to go against a 57-43 referendum percentage vote not to. The fact that this ordinance comes with additional restrictions makes me feel like we are just trying to get something approved. Not for the residents, since we know their thoughts.”
Both sides were represented Monday.
For those against, arguments about gambling being addictive and causing an undesirable element to come to town to commit crimes were brought up.
Resident Karen Gates said that video gaming is referred to as the “crack cocaine” of gambling.
“It’s a highly addictive form of gambling,” she said. “Not too long ago we had signs all over the city welcoming students and parents to Trinity Christian College and inviting them to local businesses. At the same time, there was a proposal to bring in video gambling.
“Video gambling at the time was shown to target by marketing young adults. It’s a crazy decision to bring in video gambling when they market and target the very same people we are saying ‘come on in.’’’
Frank Costa, owner of the Rooftop Inn, said he has been losing business to other communities and so is the city.
“If they [customers] are here and they need gas, they can go to the station on 127th,” he said. “If they are in Crestwood and find out they need gas, they will go to their gas station.
“At some point, you have to draw a line in the sand. You are either going to be for businesses or against businesses. If so, put more nursing homes down Harlem and let’s get it over with.”
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Palos Heights needs to change their OLD ways, it is 2022. Bring video gaming to Palos Heights. If you go to a restaurant in Tinley or anywhere there is video gaming, that restaurant and town is more profitable than any restaurant/bar in Palos Heights.
Can you buy a Illinois lottery ticket in Palos Heights? If you can gambling is already allowed.
I have a question if you opened a business in a town that didn’t allow gambling machines and you believed that the best way to gain income, why didn’t you just open in a town that allowed gambling machines. Most business owners in towns that allow them will state more income is generated by gambling then what the business started out being, makes you think what will happen to the quality of the business. Money talks!