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Beach Park moves closer to allowing video gaming

Lee Bledsoe his daughter June Mink Al’s Tap Beach Park say video gaming would not only help their business it

Lee Bledsoe and his daughter June Mink of Al’s Tap in Beach Park say video gaming would not only help their business, it would give visitors to the area something to do. Al’s is visited in the summer by people from Illinois Beach State Park, and other times there are caregivers from Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion. | Tina Johansson/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 30, 2014 3:36AM

Beach Park officials have directed staff and legal counsel to draft an ordinance for video gaming, including applicable licensing and signage.

The move came at the Jan. 23 village board meeting which was attended by tavern owners and others, with an overwhelming pro-video game stance.

A ban on video gaming, like Beach Park has had since 2009, only makes gamers go elsewhere to gamble, they said.

“We want to have it (video gaming) because everybody around us has it,” said Cari Clark, owner of Clark’s Lounge in Beach Park. “We just want a fair playing field.”

Her father and business partner Bob Clark chimed in: “You can’t drive five minutes without seeing (a video gaming site).” He noted there are other things to take into account, including what he believes are higher property values for bars that are allowed video gaming.

Video game licenses are tied to liquor licenses, and the state is equally as strict, tavern owners say.

“She would have to be fingerprinted,” said Bob, pointing to his daughter. “The state runs the whole thing. They come and put in the games including an ATM machine. And at the end of the month, the bar gets 35 percent and the village gets five percent of how much customers bet. It’s free money.”

According to Trustee Donald Jensen, chair of the village finance committee, municipalities with a similar number of establishments — bars or restaurants with a bar that have liquor licenses (there are four in Beach Park) — collect $30,000 to $48,000 from video gaming, or about $2,500 to $4,000 per month.

However, it is not certain what Beach Park could actually collect, as revenues get diluted the more video games there are, explained Jon Kindseth, village administrative services director.

Diane Hewitt, District 2 Lake County board member, said she was initially against video gaming and actually voted against it. But after seeing the picture through the eyes of business owners, she had a change of heart.

“I feel I have no right to say this business can and this business can’t, so I don’t think it’s fair,” she said. “Waukegan took in over $10,000 in one month (from video gaming), but that’s not the norm,” said Hewitt, adding that Waukegan is a home-ruled municipality.

Lee Bledsoe, owner of Al’s Tap said he has had an influx of caregivers lately who come to the area with patients visiting Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion. Having video gaming would provide them some entertainment, he said.

“We don’t have a lot of options around here, and video gaming would help,” said his daughter June Mink, who works at the tavern.

Trustee Linda Sittig, said that the village safety committee she heads studied the issue and found no safety violations linked to video gaming.

Trustees Larry Wells and Mark Ottersen are not in favor of video gaming for various reasons. Wells said he is voicing concerns from constituents who have contacted him, and Ottersen said what he likes least about it are “tacky signs” that video gaming businesses have erected.

The issue is slated to come back to the board for another vote sometime in February.

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