ST. CHARLES – A majority of St. Charles aldermen want video gambling to continue in St. Charles, despite objections from some who say its potential for harm outweighs its benefits.
The city approved video gambling three years ago through an ordinance set to be repealed April 30 under a sunset clause unless the City Council reauthorizes it.
A final vote for reauthorization by the council is expected March 19. Eliminating video gambling would require three aldermen to change their minds before then.
In a preliminary vote at the Government Operations Committee meeting March 5, seven aldermen said they approved reauthorizing video gambling. Three aldermen were opposed: Maureen Lewis, 5th Ward; Rita Payleitner, 2nd Ward; and Ronald Silkaitis, 1st Ward.
The three were among the five aldermen who voted against video gambling in 2015. At that time, Mayor Ray Rogina’s vote broke the 5-5 tie.
Among the five aldermen who originally opposed video gambling were Jo Krieger, who is no longer on the City Council, and the 4th Ward’s Steven Gaugel, who has reversed his position.
“I think after being in place for two years, the program has aided businesses,” Gaugel said. “I think it would do more harm than good to eliminate it now.”
Fourth Ward alderwoman Lora Vitek, who replaced Krieger in 2017, said she has not noticed any negative effects from video gambling.
St. Charles Rookies owner Bob Karas said video gambling proceeds are necessary for the restaurant and bar, citing the rising cost of running his business. “It is something we need to survive,” Karas said.
The St. Charles Moose Lodge also has relied on video gambling revenue to stay afloat, its treasurer Jim Buenrostro said; in 2017, those proceeds totaled about $55,000.
Police Chief James Keegan said no violations of video gambling regulations have been reported in St. Charles.
Payleitner said although laws protect people from the over-consumption of alcohol, none exist to control the potential destructive effects of addictive gambling.
Karas said it is up to individuals “to manage what they do in their lives.” He said he has not had any problems with video gambling at Rookies or at his other St. Charles restaurant, Alexander’s Cafe.
The St. Charles Police Department employs a social worker 20 hours a week at the police station, offering crisis intervention and referrals.
St. Charles resident Linda Litchfield said she doesn’t believe the police would even know if there were any problems stemming from video gambling for the gambler at home. She is concerned police don’t know when a social worker’s intervention may be needed.
Litchfield implored aldermen to stop allowing video gambling. “I just wish officials of St. Charles would look at the $100,000 they got and say … we don’t need it here,” Litchfield said.