Geneva puts ban on video gaming

Video gaming was nixed in another Chicago suburb after the Geneva city council voted unanimously last week to opt out of a state law that allows video gaming at bars and restaurants.

The Illinois Video Gaming Act, which was passed in 2009 but is just beginning to be implemented, allows municipalities to opt out, effectively banning any video gaming in that town. Many suburbs, including neighboring St. Charles and Batavia, have already voted to opt out.

In Geneva, one restaurant owner had applied for a video gaming license, and others had expressed interest. Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said he had also been contacted by companies interested in opening cocktail lounges that would have included video gaming.

But the council decided the revenue that the machines would have brought — 5 percent of profits generated goes to the municipality — wasn't worth the potential problems or damage to the city's reputation, Burns said. The council was also concerned about the potential damage to Geneva's "character" and identity if it was one of the few area towns that allowed video gaming, Burns said.

"It's not just the character issue," Burns said. "The general consensus was that the revenue didn't outweigh the risk."

The Illinois Municipal League estimates that each video gaming machine would generate about $1,500 to $2,000 in tax revenue annually for the municipality, according to a city report. The totals for the city would be dependent on the number of businesses that obtain a license and how many machines they install.

The owners at Sergio's Cantina, the downtown Mexican restaurant that had applied for a license, could not be reached for comment, but told the Tribune previously that while they had reservations, they thought video gaming could help with revenue, especially in the winter when business slowed.

At the Sept. 4 city council meeting, no one spoke in favor of gaming. Kathy Gilroy, a Villa Park woman opposed to video gaming, said she attended the meeting to urge Geneva to opt out but never spoke publicly because the council voted so quickly.

Gilroy has been visiting many suburban city councils as they take up the issue because they need to consider the impact video gaming would have on their communities, she said.

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