Nothing like a controversial issue to stir up the community! Tuesday night’s Village Board meeting featured a robust two-hour discussion on the future of video gambling in Long Grove, as the Trustees needed to make a decision on permanently allowing it or letting the 18 month trial period expire. Village Hall was packed with passionate supporters on both sides of the issue.
I was not in favor of this idea when it was first brought forth almost two years ago by the merchants. The Plan Commission ruled against allowing it, and residents who had spoken to me were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of bringing video gambling into Long Grove. In February of 2014 the Board had a split vote on allowing it and I broke the tie to deny it. Subsequently, the Board supported an initiative to allow video gambling on a temporary trial basis, so I kept an open mind to see just how this issue would be handled by the businesses and the community. In the past year and a half, we have seen no ill effects, no increase in crime or complaints to the Lake County Sheriff, no inappropriate advertising. What we have seen is almost $20,000. of extra income into the Village revenues, and the four businesses who have gaming are reporting a material boost to the bottom line. The Village Tavern is profiting $8,000. per month as this form of entertainment has proven to be a good fit. By and large, residents that I have queried over the last couple of months seem ambivalent if not accepting of the practice in our Village. The sentiment that I have heard again and again is some sort of version of “I wouldn’t be upset if you take the machines away, but I also don’t mind if they stay. If it is helping our downtown businesses to survive, then it should be allowed.”
That is why I voted in favor of video gaming remaining this week, when I was called to (once again!) break a tie between a Board of Trustees split on this decision. My thinking has evolved on this issue, along with many in our community, from the idea of video gaming two years ago, now taking into account the experience of having this form of entertainment available in Long Grove. Is video gaming the savior of our historic downtown? No, but it is also not the devil leading it into the dark side of depravity. Our “Long Grove” brand is still alive and hanging strong through tough economic times. Anything our government can do to help the local, independent merchants survive the current retail climate is a help, as indicated by the majority of residents on a recent survey who identified “revitalize the downtown” as the most significant issue facing the Village in the next two years. Residents want to see our downtown business district thrive, and are becoming more open to new ideas on how to make this happen.
I have learned something through dealing with this particular issue. Preconceived notions are not always correct. Sometimes it is wise to put aside personal bias in order to be more receptive to the opinions and needs of others. It can lead to a better decision. I still have never wagered a bet on any of the video terminals here in town, and I really don’t plan on doing so in the months ahead. But for those who choose to take a chance on Long Grove’s future, I wish the best of luck for us all.