Trustees opposed to the idea said Monday they feared setting a precedent under which they would be obligated to grant the same privilege to other stations and businesses in town.
Under state statute, video gaming is permitted in truck stops but not gas stations. For the owner of the Amstar station at River Street and Route 73 to obtain a state gaming license, he would have to receive a village liquor license to serve alcoholic beverages, a prerequisite to submitting an application to the Illinois Gaming Board.
Amstar owner Jay Pastakia said he wanted the license so he could compete with other gas stations outside of village boundaries that already offer video gaming.
Village President Lael Miller cast the tie-breaking vote to deny Pastakia’s request.
“I don’t think we want to allow every single person that comes to town to have video gaming. At some point I think we have to control this,” Miller said.
Pastakia purchased the station in 1999 when it was a dilapidated car repair shop. Since then, he has completely remodeled the property, which also includes a grocery mart that sells food and beverages, packaged liquors, tobacco products and lottery tickets. In the next few months, it will become a BP station, Pastakia said.
Last fall, village code was amended to limit the number of gaming permits and liquor licenses to those currently in use, requiring all new applicants to come before the village board for approval. The number of video gaming licenses is capped at 14.
“We have tried to restrict and control video gaming going in different places. I’m always looking at setting precedent and where this could go looking forward,” Miller said.
Village Administrator Jennifer Johnsen said a laundromat in a town where she previously worked requested a video gaming license.
“So it’s not uncommon that it’s attempting to go into businesses where it wouldn’t otherwise be,” she said.
Trustee Scott Andresen, who voted in favor Pastakia’s request, said that while he understands the concern of setting a precedent, decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis.
“Remember what (this station) looked like when he bought it,” he said. “This guy has put considerable time and money into it. He’s now dealing, as all business owners do, with changes in his business environment. He’s got gas stations just over the (village) line that have video gaming that put him at a disadvantage.
“I see we have to be judicious. But we also need to evaluate it on its own individual merits. It’s not like we’re putting video gaming in Immanuel Lutheran (Church). It’s a gas station, not a cemetery, not a church, not a barbershop. I want to make sure our businesses are staying as hyper-competitive as possible without taking away from the nature of the village. And it’s not a horrible benefit that it would generate revenues (for the village).”
Trustee Kirstin Wood disagreed with Andresen’s suggestion to take the requests on a case-by-case basis.
“Because once we do it, we set a precedent and that can’t apply. You’re either going to follow the current guidelines or you’re going to change them,” she said.
Trustee Kathleen Mahony said East Dundee is already oversaturated with gaming machines.
“We are a village of 2.7 square miles and we’ve got 14 gaming licenses active. That seems very dense to me already,” she said. “And we would be setting a precedent.”
East Dundee has four gas stations.
“And if we were to allow this I’d expect them all to say they want video gaming because now they’re not competitive,” Miller said. “At what point does it end?”
Erin Sauder is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.