Dixon OKs video gaming machines for bars
Bivins’ reservations fall on deaf ears
DIXON – Despite the reservations of a former Lee County sheriff, the Dixon City Council decided unanimously Monday to allow bars to install video gaming machines.
Over the 20 years state Sen. Tim Bivins was sheriff, he told the City Council, he saw families ruined by gambling.
Both Dixon city ordinance and state law prohibits video gaming machines, but that is changing on the state side.
Under the Video Gaming Act, any bar, restaurant or establishment that has a liquor license and that is approved by the state Gaming Board can have up to five machines.
Bivins spoke at the meeting in opposition of an ordinance that would allow Dixon bars to take advantage of the change. He asked the council to take the measure to voters.
Rock Falls and Sterling city councils both made the changes last month.
“Having people sit across from your desk and tell you about how their family was completely destroyed when they didn’t know that a spouse was gambling and they maxed out their credit cards, they emptied the savings account, the checking account, and they ended up in divorce court and they have kids, is not only heartbreaking, it is very tragic,” Bivins said.
Bivins was in law enforcement for 32 years, 20 of those as sheriff.
He pointed to several studies that urged against allowing convenience gambling because of the impact on crime and bankruptcy.
Another commenter, though, doubted that “problem gambling” is as widespread as Bivins made it out to be.
Jim Neville is assistant vice president of operations at Blackhawk Music Co. in Sterling, which is in the music and dart machine business. John Neville, the president, plans to supply gaming machines in the future.
“It is not going to ruin this community, and prohibition does not work,” Neville said. “If we prohibit it in this community, they will go to Sterling, they will go to Rock Falls, and you will lose tax dollars.”
Under the state law, 25 percent of the money made after winnings are paid will go to the state, while 5 percent will be paid to the city. The rest will be divided between owners of the bars and the machines.
Mayor Jim Burke said the city could receive about $500,000 a year in revenue.
Commissioners Colleen Brechon and Jeff Kuhn want to take advantage of that.
“I don’t think we’d be stopping video gaming; I think we’d just be relocating it,” Kuhn said.
Brechon said not all gambling is bad.
“I believe people’s lives are too regulated,” she added. “I know many people who enjoy gaming. Good people. I know I do, and I don’t think it’s corrupted me.”
Despite his ultimate yes vote, Kuhn did ask for more time to do more research.
Burke pointed out that the ordinance had been on the agenda before and had been put on file for public review 2 weeks ago. He also said he had not received any negative feedback about the ordinance.
Kuhn was OK with going ahead with the vote if that’s what the council wanted, which it did.
The council voted 4-0 in favor of the ordinance. Commissioner David Blackburn was absent.
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