Geneseo residents will have their chance to voice an opinion on video gaming at the Nov. 6 election.
Geneseo aldermen approved placing an advisory referendum on the ballot asking voters “Should video gaming be prohibited in the City of Geneseo?”
The State of Illinois allows video gaming unless a municipality specifically prohibits it.
Councils are allowed to approve video gaming, vote against gaming or allow the public to express their opinion with a ballot question.
The issue will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot as an opinion question only. Referendum results would be non-binding, and city council members would be allowed to vote against public opinion, if so inclined.
Geneseo aldermen indicated a belief that local residents would vote against video gaming.
“I think I know which way our community will vote, but I could be surprised,” said alderman Derek Betcher.
“If we take this to referendum, we have to be prepared for the fact that we may eventually vote against the decision of the community (should the community approve video gaming),” said alderman Howard Beck. “We’d still have to vote and make our own decision.”
Alderman Carl?Freeman, who previously expressed his opposition to video gaming, said “If we do nothing, it will be allowed. We have to actually vote ‘no.’”
Geneseo resident Kathy?Allen spoke against gambling and provided council members with documents detailing negatives associated with gaming.
Gambling “is not a good thing,” Allen told the council. “I don’t believe in gambling.?If my husband and I wanted to live in Vegas, we’d have moved to Vegas, but we moved here.”
She added, “The Illinois Gaming Commission is basically Chicago-style politics, and I’m not in favor of inviting Chicago-style politics into Geneseo.”
In 2009, state politicians approved a law allowing cities to either opt in or opt out of video gaming. To date, Geneseo has taken no action on the issue.
However recently, officials with?Beck’s Oil Co. applied for a video gaming license for their Oakwood Avenue location.
No Beck’s officials attended the Aug. 14 city council meeting, however Chris Leamen of Leamen’s Bar &?Grill in Geneseo was in attendance.
Though he originally expressed a desire only to listen to the discussion, Geneseo mayor pro tem Bob Wachtel, who was serving in mayor Linda Van Der Leest’s absence, asked for Leamen’s thoughts on the issue.
“(Video gaming) is a way for tavern owners to add a bit to their income. The no smoking ban killed a lot of business for taverns and clubs, and this is a way to try and bring back some of that business,” said Leamen. “If they stay in town to play the games, then perhaps they won’t leave town to go to the (gambling) boats.”
Page 2 of 2 - Video gaming machine payouts will be set by the Illinois Gaming Commission, said Leamen.
Though he said he didn’t see video gaming as a make-or-break issue for business owners, approving gaming “would bring in some added income.”
The state would receive 25 percent of the machine’s net income after winnings are paid with cities receiving 5 percent and business owners and machine operators divvying up the rest.
Some aldermen were willing to vote directly on the issue during their Aug. 14 meeting, but, ultimately, decided to put the question to the public.
“It’s a rare time when we have the opportunity and the mechanisms are in place to allow the public to express their thoughts on a larger scale,” said alderman Keith?Kennett.