Slot Machines in Crystal Lake: No, No, No, No, No, No, Who Am I To Judge?

After referring to Pottersville in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Aaron Shepley said, “If the voters of Crystal Lake want it (gambling) more than me as Mayor, [so be it}.  I’m not going to compromise my beliefs.”

An informal discussion was held Tuesday night by the Crystal Lake City Council about whether to allow slot machines (“video poker,” if you favor the idea) in town

Aaron Shepley

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)

Stepanie Drougas, a representative of the Lake in the Hills-based company Triple Seven Illinois.

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.”

Not only are casinos in most South Dakota restaurants, they are also in the gas stations.  “7 AM-Midnight,” the Shell sign says.

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.

= = = = =
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.”


Slot Machines in Crystal Lake: No, No, No, No, No, No, Who Am I To Judge? — 10 Comments

  1. Okay, so McHenry County needs a ‘draw’ of some kind.

    What do you already have that most other Chicago suburbs cannot offer.

    We have much open land space.

    That is “God Given” and wont cost a dime to purchase, it’s already ours.

    Why don’t the powers that be, put their thinking caps on and ‘create’ a McHenry County that becomes a family getaway for the traffic and concrete land locked Chicagoland suburbanites?

    How about an ‘Up Scale’ vacation lodge, water park and championship golf course with a winery?

    Why allow all those “Naperville” type dollars, just as an example, to drive right past McHenry County only to spend a couple thousand a week in Galena?

    McHenry County has the resources in the most natural of settings.

    You now have full interstate access.

    Perhaps this might even satisfy the village of Lakewood’s dreams?

    They have already invested heavily in land deals.

    You have a lake.

    You have Lake in The Hills Airport.

    If that area is not viable, ‘Create’ a space, you already own it.

    In short, you have infrastructure in place, plus natural beauty, consider utilizing what is right in front of you.

    Allow the entire county to “Draw from the Well.”

    Stop using ‘Religion’ as your benchmark.

    You see how that is working for many of the religious sect in the Middle east.

  2. One additional thought.

    In order to move forward with any plans for the future, McHenry County along with all of her towns, villages, MUST first consider what its identity is to be.

    Simply put, How do you want to be perceived?

    Crystal Lake has in place wonderful infrastructure as the counties ‘Educational Hub.’ (Can’t have gambling machines in a college town) So let Crystal Lake grow as such.

    A quaint ‘college town.’

    Lake in the Hills is the Shopping face of the county……Johnsburg is following it appears, that is good.

    Like or not, you are also going to have to over look a certain amount of ‘corruption.’

    Deals that most don’t like to believe take place, have to in order to ‘grease the wheels of change.’

    But your legislators can control to what extent these factions can have control.

    Minimize it.

    McHenry County board, find your county “Identity Theme,” then formulate a long term plan and stick to it.

    A certain amount of ‘Adult’ recreation must be allowed but in the right place. (No, I’m not talking about strip clubs.)

    Given all just stated, be highly careful of making any major changes or starting any major projects in the next few years. We are in for a rough ride folks!

  3. I have two issues with the article and comments within…

    First, gambling is not a sin, so this cannot be a religous debate.

    Secondly, pawn shops do not prey on the weak, they serve a consumer base with short terms loans (of which is highly regulated) and cash for goods where traditional lenders/banks, credit unions do not service. Calling someone “weak” who benefits from a pawn transaction is very narrow minded.

    Shame on you.

  4. The above calculation was made on the fly last night.

    Sorry about that, Cal.

    The amount in play would be more like 3.4 million and the “take” would be about $1,020,000 between the city and the state.

    The point remains.

    The Illinois lawmakers always come back the thought that we can gamble ourselves out of the poor fiscal desicions from past and present lawmakers.

    If they are correct and we ever did have enough of the “take” to solve our fiscal woes, do you think it would ever have the effect of reducing our tax burden?

    I guarantee the lawmakers will find a place to absorb any future surplus. (yeah, like a surplus is ever gonna happen……)

  5. The word “sin” was used because that is exactly what this type of TAX is called….a Sin Tax.

  6. JOBS—- That is what we need. J-O-B-S!

    I agree with Politician Not is identifying the untapped potential of promoting what we have- an outdoors mecca- kayaking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, snowmobiling,etc……

    Places to stay, things to do- a winery… hmm.

    now THERE is a concept.

    We are on the fringe of the third largest MSA in the country- we need to expand our revenue base not use the shell game of gambling, or cat tags, or permit fees .. or for that matter even new retail- that doesn’t grow the base- it moves the bucket around. We need an innovative idea to attract new dollars, new businesses and new professional level jobs.

    I am very proud of the vote. Good on you.

  7. Mr Skinner,

    I’m not a “devil” as you so carelessly referred to me as.

    Although I have my faults, as I would assume you do, I am a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, (of a minister, God rest his soul), a sister, and a friend to many.

    Oh did i fail to mention a child of God?

    You might want to choose your words describing someone you know nothing about and have never met, a little more carefully.

    With all due respect,

    Stephanie Drougas

  8. Resident is wrong. Yes, it is a sin.

    God said to NOT be a gambler. But, just like a billion other things

    He said not to do – WE do them.

    That is all beside the point.

    The point being that for once our city and council have actually made a good decision. Kudos. (Like George said, BIG surprise.)

  9. How about another auto store?!?!?!?

    How about another mattress store?!?!?

    You self righteous political bullies think that poker machines would cause the decay of Crystal Lakes “moral fiber”?

    When in fact it is you!

    We need the machines to help us stay in business in your perfect little town!

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