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Ogle County Board rejects video gaming

Addiction specialist: 'This is not a good way to generate money'

OREGON – Video gaming won't be coming to bars and other establishments in unincorporated areas of Ogle County.

Following a lively debate Tuesday night, the County Board voted 13-9 to reject an amendment to the liquor ordinance that would have allowed gaming machines in certain establishments that hold liquor licenses, including bars, truck stops, fraternal establishments, and veterans establishments.

Before the discussion, board Chairman Kim Gouker allowed two people to present opposing views of video gaming.

Anita Bedell of Springfield, executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, called video gaming devices the "crack cocaine" of gambling.

Some people become quickly addicted to gambling on the devices, leading to the loss of jobs and higher crime rates in places that allow them, Bedell said.

For the county to receive $5,000 in revenue from video gaming, users of the devices have to lose $100,000, she said. "This is not a good way to generate money for your county."

Tom Green is a representative of Blackhawk Music Co. in Sterling and its parent company, Gold Rush Amusements, which own video gaming devices and supply them to local establishments.

"Our experiences are very different from what she said," Green said, adding that studies have shown no increase in crime in communities that approve video gaming.

His company also offers a different kind of gaming than casinos, he said.

The maximum bet is $2 and the maximum prize is $500. "It's low stakes, low reward," he said. "You can win more on a scratch-off lottery ticket than you can at video gaming."

The net profit from the gaming devices is split four ways: The state gets 25 percent, the municipality or county gets 5 percent, the establishment owner gets 35 percent, and the owner of the machines gets 35 percent.

Board member Bruce McKinney of Rochelle said video gaming is already allowed in several cities and villages throughout the county. Denying it to businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county is unfair and puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting customers, he said.

Board member Pat Saunders of Polo agreed. Although she finds the gaming devices "annoying," not approving them would discriminate against businesses in the unincorporated areas, she said.

But Bill Welty of Chana said allowing the machines is "morally wrong," and Ashley Simms of Rochelle and Zach Oltmanns of Stillman Valley said they would vote against video gaming because they would bring in too little revenue for the risks they create.

Gouker said he wants to prevent large, gambling-only businesses from coming into the county and suggested that the amendment to the liquor ordinance be changed to require that gaming devices can account for no more than 50 percent of any establishment's income.

A motion to include Gouker's change in the proposed amendment was defeated, 21-3.

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