Champaign council extends video-gambling moratorium till Jan. 23

Champaign council extends video-gambling moratorium till Jan. 23

CHAMPAIGN — There won't be any new video-gambling terminals in Champaign for the rest of 2017 after the city council voted Tuesday to extend a moratorium on video gambling until Jan. 23.

The temporary moratorium on installing and operating the terminals in newly licensed liquor-serving establishments was passed Feb. 21. It was first extended April 11 and would have expired July 18.

Video gambling is regulated in Champaign through liquor licenses instead of a specific video-gambling license, which Urbana uses.

Mayor Deb Feinen reiterated Tuesday that the moratorium's purpose is to allow time to discuss and analyze additional regulations on video gambling that aren't used by Champaign now.

Out of the 60 licensed video-gambling locations in Champaign, according to Illinois Gaming Board data, 28 are bars/restaurants, 17 are gaming-specific cafes/parlors and the rest are bingo halls/fraternal establishments, gas stations, bowling alleys, music venues, hotels or veterans' establishments.

"In a strip mall, there are two (gambling) cafes right next to each other," said council member Clarissa Nickerson Fourman. "This gaming thing is just not doing something great for our community, but I don't want to get rid of all of it."

City attorney Fred Stavins noted how the city previously limited places that sell alcohol with adult entertainment, which Fourman said is a similar situation.

Only council member Tom Bruno voted in opposition, which he has done on this issue before.

"Is it our place to say 'Now we have enough video-gaming outlets'?" Bruno asked. "We're stepping in to say 'We know better than you,' but if that's the only test, we ought to say 'You can't sell cigarettes or unhealthy food.'"

Council member Greg Stock said video gambling and other businesses like those offering payday and title loans are becoming predatory. He noted that he's only received positive feedback on the moratorium.

"Most of these gambling cafes we're talking about aren't locally owned," Stock said. "$14 million was lost from Champaign gambling last year, and most of that money didn't stay in the community."

Deputy City Manager Matt Roeschley said there will be a council meeting this fall to go over possible regulation methods.

If the council picks a method around then, he said there will be enough time to prepare it before the moratorium expires.

"I think council was pretty clear that the majority is interested in regulating video gaming in some way which we don't do now," Roeschley said, noting special concern over the gambling parlors/cafes.

"We are currently at cap," Feinen said. "If a bar or tavern owner wanted to come to Champaign, there is not a (liquor) license to be had ... so maybe we should have a gaming license."

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