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Batavia lifting ban on video gambling

Aldermen cite business requests, added revenue

BATAVIA – City aldermen are lifting Batavia’s ban on video gambling.

At a committee meeting Nov. 15, aldermen voted to allow local taverns, restaurants, social clubs and entertainment venues to install video gambling machines, and on Nov. 21, the City Council approved it.

Aldermen voting to lift the ban had said they are responding to requests from local business owners who contend that they need the machines both for the revenue and to remain competitive with establishments in nearby communities that offer video gambling.

State law allows five video gambling machines in an establishment. Municipalities receive 5 percent of revenues and may charge a licensing fee for each machine.

City Administrator Laura Newman said that if 12 businesses in Batavia each install five of the machines, the city could expect to receive $120,000 per year, on top of an annual $25 fee per machine.

Dale Richard, a manager at Batavia Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1197, told aldermen that the city’s 2 percent tax on liquor sales is hurting the post, and the additional revenue is needed.

Richard said the post will ensure that its patrons do not abuse video gambling.

“The VFW will take care of its own,” Richard said.

Jason Keller of the downtown Bulldog’s Cellar tavern said Batavia is losing business to other communities offering video gambling.

Jim Nichols of the west-side Crosstown Pub told aldermen that businesses need the additional revenue.

Lifelong Batavia resident Lois Dahlstrom spoke out against the proposal, arguing that the cost to society outweighs any increased revenue to the city.

“We don’t need the influence of video gambling in Batavia,” Dahlstrom said Nov. 15. “Retain the ban for the sake of the community.”

Mayor Jeff Schielke, who noted that Batavia and Geneva were the last two communities in Kane County without video gambling, expressed opposition.

“I wouldn’t vote for this,” the mayor said Nov. 15.

The committee voted 8-3 in favor Nov. 15, with two aldermen absent and one vacancy on the 14-member council. Voting in favor were 2nd Ward Alderman Alan Wolff, 4th Ward Aldermen Susan Stark and Paula Mueller, 5th Ward Aldermen Lucy Thelin Atac and Kevin Botterman, 6th Ward Aldermen Nick Cerone and Michael Russotto, and 7th Ward Alderman Dave Brown. Voting against the proposal were 1st Ward Alderman Scott Salvati, 2nd Ward Alderman Martin Callahan and 7th Ward Alderman Drew McFadden.

Note to readers: There will be a post-holiday update on the full City Council vote.

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