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Coal City board seeks public input on video gambling ordinance

COAL CITY — Coal City officials are seeking citizen input into an ordinance that could bring video gambling to village establishments.

At the village's board meeting Monday, Village Administrator Matt Fritz said the issue is now coming to the board as the Illinois Gaming Board begins to look through applications for video gaming terminals.

"We're kind of in the beginning of our fact finding on this issue and trying to decide upon the best way of regulating the video gaming in Coal City," he said. 

State legislators approved the Video Gaming Act in 2009, although the implementation of it has stalled because of following legal battles that took the issue to the state Supreme Court.

Mayor Neal Nelson said when the legislation was passed, the board discussed it in informal terms, and at the time didn't choose to opt out of video gaming. Fritz said the village currently has no prohibitions on video gambling.

After reading more about the law and what it means, Nelson said he is concerned about how quickly it was passed by state legislators.

"One of things that disturbs me about it is the fact that any place that pours liquor is allowed to have these machines, per Illinois law," he said.

Nelson said that because Coal City does not have home rule, the village may not be able to limit video gaming to bars — the state law allows for video gaming terminals in any establishments with a liquor license, fraternal and veterans establishments and truck stops.

Nelson said while he and the board did not see problems with approving liquor licenses to restaurants in the village, he doesn't necessarily want to see video gaming in the same establishments.

"As the liquor commissioner and mayor, it was never my intention of allowing those liquor licenses for those restaurants to become gaming parlors," he said. "I think there are problems inherent with that happening."

Nelson said at this point, it's unknown what proceeds from the video gaming terminals could go to the village — early estimates range from about 5 percent of sales to about $1,000 per machine per year.

Nelson said he wanted the board to table the decision so that trustees can interact with citizens and receive public feedback, as well as do their own research.

"What we don't want to have happen is this to impact the town that we have," Nelson said. "We have a great town, we have great restaurants and bars that follow the rules and we don't have a lot of problems. ... We don't want to see that disintegrate and we want to make sure we're making the right decision for the community."

The board will take up the decision at its June 25 meeting.

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