Crystal Lake last considered allowing slot machines (euphemistically called “video gaming” by supporters) in Crystal Lake in May, 2012.
The vote was 6-1 in opposition with only Ellen Brady-Mueller supporting allowing them.
Local bar and restaurant owners advanced the issue again, which resulted in a discussion in City Council chambers Tuesday night.
Presenting the case for allowing slot machines in Crystal Lake were
Leech argued that “things have changed since 2012,” pointing out that surrounding communities and the McHenry County Board had approved “gaming.”
The pitch involved the loss of revenue that the establishments sustain.
“We need the additional income that gaming will bring,” Leech said.
He argued that was no evidence of any increase in crime resulting from slot machines spread across the state and that customers would go out of Crystal Lake to find them, if they were not allowed in the city.
Hermes’ bar is located closest to Lake in the Hills, the nearest municipality to allow the video poker machines. It is between Ackmann and Miller Roads.
He told of customers who said they would rather be at his establishment, “but my wife enjoys gaming.”
His biggest competitor is Moretti’s on Randall Road in Lake in the Hills. Hermes said that it took in $10,667 in from video gaming and that he would have to “triple our sales” to earn that amount.
I was the only one to speak against allowing slot machines in Crystal Lake.
“Crystal Lake, a Good Place to Live,” used to be and maybe still is the slogan of the city.
I argued that allowing slots would hurt that desire.
I also pointed out that the Methodist Church, of which I am a member, opposes gambling.
Georgio owner Coli said he was opposed to the machines, but “our direct competitors five miles down the road are able to pay their employees more money” because of slot machine revenue.
“Are we the only town in McHenry County that does not allow it?” asked Brady-Mueller.
Repeating the argument she made the last time the issue was before the City Council, she said, “It’s not my job to tell people what’s right or wrong.”
Councilman Ralph Dawson refuted a survey that Leech said showed that Crystal Lakers wanted slot machines.
He told of talking to lots of people.
“There was no way they wanted it. They didn’t support it at all.”
Both Brett Hopkins, who voted against slots originally, and newly-elected Cameron Hubbard indicated that they were open to taking a look at the issue.
Cameron said he didn’t seen any difference between buying lottery tickets at a gas station and the requested machines.
“My position is firm. I’m not for it,” Jeff Thorsen said.
Mayor Aaron Shepley maintained his opposition.
He said that he thought the bars and restaurants were “not losing volume as much as opportunity.”
Referring to what other municipalities had done, he pointed out he had been taught not to succumb to peer group pressure.
“Maybe that’s what distinguishes us.”
While he conceded Brady-Mueller’s point that that it is “not in our purview to legislate morality…it is our job to legislate for the general welfare of the community.”
The Mayor argued that slot machines “would negatively impact the character of our community.”
He also said he had talked to Kathy Ferguson, a social worker by profession, who told him that she “wasn’t in favor of re-opening the issue before and isn’t now [because it was] helping to feed addiction.”
Shepley said, “It would take some sort of miracle to change my mind.”
You don’t have a majority, so what’s the point?” Brady-Mueller concluded.
“Mrs. Ferguson was adamant, absolutely opposed.”
Thorsen explained that it was an extra revenue stream that the city didn’t need. “I don’t think we’ll see restaurants vacating.
“I do believe we have our finger on the pulse of the community,” Shepley said.
“I do believe it would affect the character of our community in a negative way.”
Shepley indicated that if the citizenry felt strongly enough that he was wrong on the issue and he lost the next election, “I’m willing to take that vote.”