BATAVIA – Funway Entertainment Center in Batavia is proposing to install video gambling machines, renewing a debate among city aldermen over the proliferation of the devices in the community.
The owner of the popular amusement facility at 1335 S. River St. wants to create a gaming area inside an existing storage room connected to the bar in the 20-lane bowling center.
Funway owner Bob Hansen and his son, director of operations Dominic Hansen, appeared before the Batavia City Council on Oct. 29 asking for a license to operate the video gambling stations.
“We’re looking for additional revenue sources,” Bob Hansen told the council.
Aldermen, meeting as a committee-of-the-whole, ultimately directed City Administrator Laura Newman to draft an ordinance permitting video gambling at businesses holding an E-3 liquor license, designated for bowling alleys and entertainment centers.
Funway is the only business in Batavia with an E-3 license. There are currently seven businesses in the city offering video gambling, primarily bars and restaurants, each with five machines.
The family-friendly Funway operates a wide variety of indoor and outdoor amusements, including a roller-skating rink, video game arcade, laser tag facility, batting cages and a party room.
Earlier this year, Funway opened a second outdoor go-cart track and a completely rebuilt outdoor miniature golf course.
“The last thing I want to do is ruin Funway’s image,” Hansen said.
Hansen told aldermen, some of whom expressed concern about minors being exposed to video gambling, that he will maintain strict control over the gaming area.
“When the bar is not open, the gaming area will be closed, period,” Hansen said. “Our target market is the casual adult who is in the facility having a drink in the bar.”
Several aldermen, already opponents of the video gambling that already exists in the city, said they will not support any expansion.
“It’s just something I think we should try to discourage in our town,” 5th Ward Alderman Mark Uher said.
“I’m not in support of expanding video gambling,” 3rd Ward Alderman Elliot Meitzler said.
Others expressed a pro-business standpoint.
“I don’t see how we can’t allow a business owner to take this opportunity,” 6th Ward Alderman Michael Russotto said.
Several council members said the issue boils down to a matter of fairness and suggested that an amusement center like Funway is the most logical place for video gambling.
“This goes with gaming,” 2nd Ward Alderman Marty Callahan said.
“If anyone can do it, it’s Funway,” 1st Ward Alderman Scott Salvati said. “If anyone is going to do it right, it’s them.”
Mayor Jeff Schielke warned the council that more requests for video gambling licenses are likely.
Sixth Ward Alderman Nick Cerone said that with Funway being the only E-3 liquor license-holder, allowing video gambling there would not set a precedent.
“This doesn’t necessarily open the door,” Cerone said.
Newman said an ordinance will be drafted for the council’s consideration and brought back to the committee for further discussion.