Urbana council begins discussion on video gambling

Urbana council begins discussion on video gambling

URBANA — In a state where most cities are either allowing or disallowing video gambling in licensed bars, Mayor Laurel Prussing said she wants to give it a little more thought.

She and the city council on Monday night opened a discussion on video gambling in the city of Urbana, a conversation that is being forced by a state law that will allow video gambling terminals at truck stops, bars and fraternal organizations.

The law gives the city the option to do nothing — which, by default, would allow establishments in the city to start assembling the terminals. Or the city council could ban video gaming, which would also disqualify the city from a cut of the revenue from the machines.

Or, as Prussing has proposed, officials can try to find a middle ground.

"I think this council will have to consider this very carefully," Prussing said.

In 2010, just a few months after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill, Prussing floated the idea of allowing video gambling in places which already had similar entertainment machines.

At the time, that was at three locations in the city, including Bruce Brown's American Legion.

"If we don't have the revenue from these poker machines, then we'll close our doors," Brown told the city council on Monday night.

Prussing also mentioned that liquor licenses for businesses wanting the gambling terminals could be made more expensive, but she and the council committed to no specifics on Monday. They will continue to hold debate on the topic for a few weeks, but officials would like to have a decision by next month.

Alderman Robert Lewis, D-Ward 3, said the state law is "misguided" in that it comes during a poor economy with residents who might be looking for a quick fix to inadequate incomes.

"It's the vulnerable people in our community that's going to be impacted by it," Lewis said.

Last month, the Champaign City Council chose not to prohibit video gambling. That will hurt Brown's revenue stream if the city of Urbana chooses to disallow video gambling.

"If Urbana doesn't have it, these people go to Champaign," Brown said.

Prussing said she's trying to find a middle ground.

"I think we want to hear from everybody," she said.

But simplifying the decision to only two options — allowing it or disallowing it across the board — might not be sufficient, she said.

"I don't think Urbana wants to be Las Vegas," Prussing said.