Whether to allow video gaming in town sparked a discussion of biblical proportions that echoed Tuesday night through Crystal Lake City Hall.
It started off with Cal Skinner Jr. telling City Council members that the Devil will come as an attractive salesman with a tempting offer. That offer, Skinner added, would be “hard-core slot machines.”
Skinner is a former state representative, former Libertarian candidate for governor and political blogger who lives in Lakewood.
According to city documents, the Illinois Video Gaming Act, passed in 2009, permits the operation of video gaming terminals in certain establishments throughout Illinois. Players can make cash wagers and play electronic casino-style games such as video poker. Municipalities can regulate video gaming or prohibit video gaming within their corporate limits and receive tax revenue generated by the games.
“Let’s call it what it is,” Mayor Aaron Shepley said. “It’s gambling, period. Not ‘video gaming.’ … It preys on the weak, on people who are down on their luck.”
Shepley added that the state came up with the idea to allow more gambling—in addition to the lottery and betting on racehorses—as a kind of “panacea.” He called the state’s efforts to boost revenue through gambling “snake oil.” Money would go into gambling machines instead of the cash registers of stores and restaurants in town.
Shepley went further to say that Crystal Lake could become a “Mecca of adult uses” if elected officials wanted to go down that path.
“It’s an absurd example,” Shepley said. “But it shows that just because you can doesn’t mean you should."
Shepley also talked about the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which an angel shows the protagonist what would happen to his town if gambling had been allowed.
“Sin taxes are popular, like for alcohol and cigarettes,” Councilman Jeff Thorsen said. “But do we have to introduce the sin so we can tax it?”
Stephanie Drougas, representing the gaming industry, offered another point of view.
Drougas, an account representative for Lake in the Hills-based video terminal provider Triple 7 Illinois LLC, said the city would have another revenue source.
“Jobs would be created,” Drougas said. “Standing here before you, I’m a perfect example of that.”
Councilwoman Ellen Brady Mueller was the only member of the city council that was warm to the idea.
“I don’t think we’ll turn into Vegas,” Brady Mueller said. “I’ve never been to a casino. It’s not something I’d be interested in doing myself, but why don’t we ask the restaurant and bar owners in town what they think?”
Although the city already prohibits video gambling, council members could vote June 5 to “expressly” prohibit video gaming.