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Sugar Grove eyes video gambling referendum, ordinance

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 7:00 a.m. CDT

SUGAR GROVE – The Sugar Grove Village Board plans to revisit its video gambling ordinance at its next meeting and is also preparing to move forward with putting an advisory referendum on the April ballot.

During Committee of the Whole discussion Tuesday, board members directed city staff to draft two ordinances – one to allow the board to vote on opting into video gaming and one to prepare a nonbinding advisory referendum for the April ballot.

The discussion initially centered only on crafting an advisory referendum, but the board decided to revisit the video gaming issue at its next meeting after hearing from several Sugar Grove American Legion members who expressed concern about waiting until the results of an April advisory referendum to make a decision.

Dave Smith, adjutant for the American Legion, said he wasn’t sure the organization would survive until April because they’re already struggling to keep their doors open. He and other legion members present said they believed video gambling would give them the boost they need to operate.

“We’re not asking to be a casino, we’re asking to survive for the veterans for another day,” he said.

After hearing from several legion members, Trustee Kevin Geary said he was still in favor of going forward with an advisory referendum to give people a chance to voice their opinion.

Cliff Barker, chaplain for the legion, said people have already been voting with their feet by patronizing bars, restaurants and legion facilities in surrounding towns that have video gambling machines.

At least one person in attendance opposed video gambling. Jon Zahm, who is the chairman of the Kane County Conservative Coalition, asked the board to consider that people have to spend hundreds of dollars for an establishment to get a small return on investment.

“I think it’s really a Trojan horse that video gambling is going to save a [legion] post,” he said.

Trustee Rick Montalto said he was concerned about the legion closing and asked if there was a way to vote on allowing video gaming while still going forward with an advisory referendum. He said if the majority of people who vote don’t want video gaming in Sugar Grove, the village board can look at the ordinance again in April.

“If the town says we don’t want it, we can vote to opt out at a later time,” he said.

Barker said he liked that idea.

“The sooner we could do it, the better, because it is getting down to crunch time,” he said. “We’ve had such an exodus of people, if that’s the alternative, that would be great.”

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