While the hand isn’t over, it doesn’t look like a winner.
Following a discussion at its committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Northfield Village Board wants more information before formally considering gambling terminals in town but a majority of trustees did not express support for the idea.
Currently, Northfield forbids video gaming systems in local establishments, but the owners of Stormy’s Bar and Grille, 1735 Orchard Lane, are asking trustees to consider amending the village code to allow for the restaurant to install video poker terminals.
Stormy’s co-owner Chad Bidwill told trustees that Stormy’s would like to use the video poker machines to help generate revenue, and added that some customers leave Stormy’s when they find out it does not have video gaming.
“We have people that leave, especially on Fridays and Saturdays,” Bidwill said. “They’ll go out and have a drink or grab a bite to eat and then they’ll head somewhere else.”
Bidwill said the machines would be installed on the east side of the restaurant away from the dining room, and while families could enter that room, he said they typically do not.
Bidwill also said that the Illinois Gaming Board has regulations that must be followed and that, should the Village code be amended, Stormy’s would abide by their rules in addition to any that the Village might require.
In his memo to the trustees, Village Attorney Everette “Buzz” Hill said gaming could be regulated by creating a new class of liquor license.
“Allowing video gaming in the Village through the creation of liquor license classifications for establishments that have video gaming allows the Village to retain maximum control over video gaming,” Hill wrote in the memo. “Any establishment that wants video gaming at its location will need to apply for and obtain a liquor license from the Village.”
Though trustees mostly asked questions to Bidwill about the machines, Trustee Tracey Mendrek said she would not support video gaming in Northfield.
“I don’t believe that video gaming is appropriate for our community,” she said, adding that no other communities in New Trier Township allow gaming.
Bidwill, though, cited the nearby communities of Elk Grove, Morton Grove, North Chicago and Mount Prospect do. Niles, Prospect Heights, Buffalo Grove, Rolling Meadows and Wheeling also also video gaming, while Skokie, Evanston, Glenview and Northbrook do not.
“I think there’s a reason why the other communities in our area have not voted for it,” Mendrek said.
She also said that any change to the zoning code would not only impact Stormy’s, but any other business in Northfield.
“It is now an option for every establishment in our community, and I don’t want to be known on the North Shore as the place where you come to do video gaming,” Mendrek said.
Trustee Matt Galin also said he would not support video gaming.
“It’s not something I see for Northfield,” he said.
While Trustee Todd Fowler said he is leaning toward not supporting video gaming, he also said he has not seen these systems in operation and is interested in doing more research on them.
“I’m inclined to not want that in our village, but I also want to educate myself and go see what it’s like,” he said.
On the other hand, Trustee Charles Orth said he has been inside establishments that use gaming machines and he did not notice any type of negative behavior.
He described witnessing “quite a few people” playing and said they were “having a good time.”
“It didn’t seem obnoxious, it didn’t seem loud, it didn’t seem to be a problem,” Orth said.
While Village President Greg Lungmus said he personally does not support allowing video gaming in Northfield, he agreed with Fowler that more research needs to be done before trustees decide to move forward or not.
He also said he would work with Village Manager Stacy Sigman to see if they could conduct a community survey to get residents’ opinions on video gaming.
Lungmus also asked Bidwill to help write the survey questions if that ends up happening.
“Let’s see if we can further educate some of our board members here, and maybe do a survey,” Lungmus said.
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Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.