After presentations by two gambling machine purveyors, City Council members expressed a 6-1 margin against turning Crystal Lake into “Potterville,” to put it in Mayor Aaron Shepley’s words.
“I’ll bet if we wanted to make Crystal Lake the mecca of adult entertainment, we could do that,” Shepley said.
“Just because we could do it doesn’t mean we should do it,” he said just before referring to “one of my favorite movies, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.'”
Comparing the scenes of Bedford Falls and Pottersville, he said, “If you don’t look at the extreme examples, you’re not looking at the whole picture.”
Presentations were made by representatives of two slot machine companies.
One, Stepanie Drougas, from Triple 7 Illinois, based in Lake in the Hills, told of the split of profits from the money gambled:
- 30% to the state
- 35% to the liquor licensee
- 35% to the machine owners (the ones at the meeting)
As I understand it, 5 percentage points of the state’s share goes to the local city or county (if unincorporated).
The Triple 7 Illinois woman estimated that each machine would generate $1,000 for the city each year.
“Your bars and restaurants are struggling. This will give them a little shot in the arm,” she said.
Councilwoman Ellen Brady Mueller confirmed that the machines to be installed would not be the ones “sitting in bars now.”
“[Is it] basically equivalent to Vegas as to the speed it would spin?” Councilman Ralph Dawson inquired.
Jeff Thorsen calculated that $17 million could be gambled in Crystal Lake machines with $3.4 million going to the state.
“That’s a lot of money you’re pulling out of pockets,” he said.
Yours truly spoke in opposition on behalf of the First United Methodist Church of Crystal Lake
I pointed out that each machine could be expected to pull $20,000 out of money now spent in local businesses on goods and services.
I explained that Methodists were holding a once-every-four-year General Conference in Tampa about which stories would surface later this week.
However, I explained the fights between liberals and orthodox Methodists that would end up in the stories would not be about gambling.
I told the Council that both liberal and conservative Methodists opposed gambling.
After the two gambling machine company representatives and I spoke, Shepley said,
“Let’s call it what it is. It’s gambling, period. This is not Crystal Point Mall and pinball.”
Then he asked his colleagues how whether or not they favored allowing the machines in Crystal Lake:
- “Not,” said Brett Hopkins forcefully. “I’m not going to open the door now.
- “I don’t really see the need,” Carolyn Schofield said. “I have a problem of introducing a sin so we can tax it. Are those the revenues I really want to chase down and create, I’m in the ‘No’ [column].”
- “Absolutely in the ‘No’ column,” said Cathy Ferguson. She told of working with youth at the Arlington Park Race Track. “I can tell you horror stories about people [there]. I do not want to have any part of that.” Ferguson later told of visiting South Dakota. “You cannot go anywhere for breakfast without gambling. Those towns are dead. It’s not doing what they wanted it to.”
- Ralph Dawson also spoke in opposition. He pointed out that the gambling machines might “very well drive customers out of establishments.”
- “It’s not my job to decide what is or isn’t a sin,” Ellen Brady Mueller said. “Got to bars and [you]see the same people sitting on the same stools [day after day].” She indicated that a number are probably alcoholics, but suggested, “If that’s your addiction, you’ll find a machine.
“I think I’m probably in the same boat as the majority of the Council.
“I think it’s a fair thing to compare it to the pawn shop. Those types of organizations tend to prey on the weak or people who are down on their luck.
“Do I find it somewhat disappointing bordering on disgusting that Illinois turns to gambling?” he asked rhetorically.
He characterized selling gambling as the answer to public financing problems as “snake oil.”
In the Illinois General Assembly, State Senator Pam Althoff voted for the authorization bill, while State Senate Dan Duffy voted, “No.” That Roll Call is here.
In the House of Representatives Mike Tryon and Mark Beaubien voted in favor of the slot machine bill. Jack Franks opposed it. Here’s the House Roll Call.
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Tim Kane wrote a story on the council consideration of gambling for Crystal Lake Patch. He pointed out that I began my presentation with my “telling City Council members that the Devil will come as an attractive salesman with a tempting offer. That offer, Skinner added, would be ‘hard-core slot machines.’”
In the Northwest Herald, Brett Rowland also referenced what I said:
“‘I’m sure it would help downtown,’ he said. ‘But I’m not sure downtown needs help. You built a nice downtown district without gambling.’
“He also said that if the City Council doesn’t want pawn shops, he couldn’t understand why it would allow gambling. The council decided last month not to create an ordinance that would have allowed pawnbrokers to operate in the city.”