At a committee of the whole meeting Feb. 1, Harwood Heights Mayor Arlene Jezierny shared ordinances from other towns that already allow video gaming, instructing trustees to circle those provisions they would like to incorporate in an ordinance best suited to Harwood Heights.
In recent years, video gaming has become a source of new revenue for towns such as Norridge , River Grove and Elmwood Park . Norridge, Harwood Heights’ neighbor, has licensed establishments, including taverns and sport-themed establishments with video gambling terminals, according to the records of the Illinois Gaming Board.
In Illinois, municipalities receive 5 percent of revenue generated by video gaming — 25 percent goes to the state, with the bulk of the remainder split between the business and the machine operator.
Jezierny said the interest arose from questions she and other trustees have fielded, a number of them coming from business people, noting “so many communities around us have it. What’s wrong with us, why can’t we do it?”
She asked Harwood Heights Police Chief Frank Biagi, also at the meeting, to look into the issue from the crime enforcement side. Biagi told committee members that “every single chief told me they had not had a single problem or a single call that they could recollect from any of these gaming (establishments).”
Jezierny distribued video gaming ordinances from a number of communities, including Bartlett, Elk Grove Village, Elmwood Park, Franklin Park, Lyons, Niles , Norridge, Northlake, Roselle, Schiller Park and Wood Dale.
“We need to just look outside the box on what concerns we have,” she said. “I don’t know if you want all these parlors going up and down Harlem Avenue. I don’t know if you want the big flashing lights, (signs proclaiming) ‘Video Games here,’ and I don’t know if you just want a parlor with no food. I don’t know if you want to limit it to establishments that have been around five years.”
She asked trustees to highlight sections that illustrate “what is the best thing to do for our community — what you want, what you would restrict, if we can.”
She said after the trustees return their recommendations, they then will be turned over to the village’s legal counsel to be put together in the form of an ordinance.
At the meeting, Harwood Heights Trustee Lawrence Steiner, the village board’s liaison to the chamber of commerce, indicated that interest is strong from members of that group for the village to be on a “level playing field” with other communities that allow gaming.
When the gaming legislation first came out, “we kind of took a wait-and-see — we’ll see how things are going,” he recalled for trustees. “And as you can see, nobody is having any troubles other than how to spend they money they are making from the revenue, so I feel we are holding businesses to a disadvantage.”
“Our businesses are more than generous when we ask them for things,” he added. “They came in here and asked us for something to improve their business.”
The revenue allows business owners to reinvest in their business and “just keep them at a level playing field,” he argued.