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Police Reports: Aug 10, 2015

Flossmoor Station may soon offer video gambling machines 
if village trustees approve a measure to legalize them. 

(HF Chronicle file photo)

Flossmoor trustees Tuesday took the first step toward allowing video gambling at establishments in the village that hold liquor licenses.

In a unanimous vote, village board members directed attorney Edward McCormick to draw up an amendment to local ordinances that would allow low-stakes gambling devices in Flossmoor. The village has prohibited video gambling since it was legalized in Illinois in 2009.

Dean Armstrong, who owns Flossmoor Station Restaurant with his wife Carolyn, requested the ordinance change. He said Flossmoor Station currently has two video game machines in the bar area and that he anticipates replacing them with the gambling devices.

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Armstrong promised the board that installing the gambling machines would not interfere with his restaurant’s reputation as a family-friendly establishment. He said lights and noise from the machines will be muted and little noticed by most patrons at Flossmoor Station.

“When we came before the village board 19 years ago and said we wanted to open a restaurant and brewery in the train station, I was told that it had to uphold the Flossmoor tradition,” Armstrong said. “We’ve done that and we continue to do that.”

Armstrong said the gambling machines would not be intrusive.

“If they represent a change of character in the community, we won’t do it,” he said.

Mayor Paul Braun said Tuesday that he was not surprised by the unanimous vote directing the attorney to draw up the ordinance change.

“We have had discussions about this before but this is the first time we have ever had a request from a liquor license holder,” he said. “I think the general feeling was that we would sit tight until that happened.”

Since low-stakes gambling machines were legalized in 2009, there has been a change in perception about whether they pose a threat to the community, Braun said.

“I think people were initially a lot more worried about them,” he said. “Now they have softened their stance and see that their towns are not turning into Las Vegas.”

Flossmoor and Hazel Crest are the only communities in the immediate south suburban area that prohibit video gambling. Homewood has six establishments with video gambling; in the last year, more than $12 million was wagered on those devices, with the village receiving about $50,000 in tax money. Glenwood has three establishments with video gambling and Chicago Heights has 18 such businesses.

Flossmoor has three establishments with liquor licenses – Flossmoor Station and Fresh Starts, both in the downtown area, and Gourmet Pizza by Carlos, in the Flossmoor Commons shopping center.

Under state law, establishments where video gambling is allowed can have up to five terminals. Poker machines and slot machines are allowed under state law; odds for the machine must be clearly posted. Single wagers are not to exceed 25 cents and there is a $2 limit per hand. Payouts from the machine are not to exceed $500. Persons under the age of 21 are not allowed to play the machines and establishments with video gambling can be fined if that happens.

Trustee James Mitros said he has heard of no problems with local video gambling “anywhere.” In today’s economy, any additional steps that help bring in revenue are a help, he added.

“I have not heard a single person say they don’t want it in Flossmoor,” Mitros said.

Trustee Perry Hoag, who made the motion directing the attorney to draw up the ordinance change, said he does not believe that video gambling leads to an increase in the crime rate.

Trustee Philip Minga asked if Flossmoor could return to a prohibition of the devices in the future, especially if the state further loosens up local gambling in Illinois.

Braun said he does not believe Flossmoor, by allowing video gambling, is held to that as a permanent situation. However, the village may be bound to honor periods of licensing agreements between the state and establishments with video gambling while they are in effect.

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