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Batavia to consider video gambling

Proposal was rejected two years ago

BATAVIA – City aldermen are again considering the idea of allowing video gambling in the community.

Two years ago, aldermen voted against lifting a ban on video gambling at local taverns, social clubs and entertainment venues.

However, during the Batavia City Council’s committee of the whole meeting Oct. 4, several aldermen called for an ordinance to be drafted that would permit businesses to install the video gaming machines.

Second Ward Alderman Alan Wolff said Batavia is losing business to communities that offer video gambling.

“Businesses want it,” Wolff said. “We want the playing field leveled so they don’t lose sales, and it’s up to us to level it. I want to see this pass and go forward.”

Dale Richard, a manager at Batavia VFW Post 1197, urged the council to approve video gambling.

Richard said the VFW post needs the additional revenue, and is being hurt by the city’s 2 percent tax on alcohol.

“We’re being taxed out of existence in this town,” Richard said. “Our clientele is blue-collar Batavians and veterans,” he said.

Second Ward Alderman Martin Callahan said nothing has changed since the council rejected the idea two years ago.

“People don’t want it in our town,” Callahan said. “I’ve not heard a clamoring from people to change this.”

Seventh Ward Alderman Drew McFadden agreed with Callahan.

“There’s no appetite for it,” McFadden said.

However, 4th Ward Alderman Susan Stark said it should be up to businesses to decide if they want to offer video gambling, and for customers to decide if they want to patronize those businesses.

“If a businessman takes a hit because he has video gambling, it’s on him,” Stark said.

Fifth Ward Alderman Lucy Thelin Atac said Batavia has “a diverse population,” and that this is how some people want to spend their recreation budget.

Atac’s 5th Ward colleague Kevin Botterman, and 1st Ward Alderman Michael O’Brien also indicated support.

Seventh Ward Alderman Dave Brown said he supports the idea too, and noted that the city would stand to benefit from a new revenue source.

Under state statute, the city would receive 5 percent of video gambling revenues. The city also could charge a fee for issuing video gambling permits. State law allows five machines in an establishment.

City Administrator Laura Newman said an ordinance will be drawn up for the council’s consideration, and that it will come back before the committee in about a month.

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