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Bloomington eyes new restrictions on video gambling machines

Bloomington eyes new restrictions on video gambling machines

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BLOOMINGTON — Proposed new gambling restrictions include capping the number of Bloomington establishments licensed for video gambling machines at about 60.

At its work session at 6 p.m. Monday at City Hall, the City Council will get "a quick update" of the proposal drafted by the city staff, City Manager Tim Gleason said Friday.

The council also will consider whether to place on a future meeting agenda Ward 6 Alderman Jenn Carrillo's request to create a cannabis task force to make recommendations on implementing a new state law legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

Carrillo is proposing up to three council members and representatives from law enforcement, downtown businesses, criminal justice reform and the cannabis industry serve on the task force.

The proposed gambling restrictions come as the city's moratorium banning additional video gambling machines is set to expire Sept. 1.

"There's been a fair amount of staff and elected (officials') time in trying to reach something that ideally everybody can vote 'yes' on the 26th (of August)," said Gleason. 

"As far as the specifics of that, there are actually two pieces that I am still working on, but we'll obviously have to have final document to update Monday night," he added.

"The one thing I can share is the moratorium will be lifted and an establishing a cap at higher number than what we currently have," said Gleason.

A staff memo included in the council's agenda packet for the work session proposed a cap of 60 licenses. "And that most likely will be the number," said Gleason.

The Illinois Gaming Board reported that in July there were 51 establishments with a total of 238 video gambling machines in Bloomington, but Gleason said the knows there are 53 establishments. 

Under the proposal, a business would have to be open for a year before it could get a video gambling license and show that at least half of its revenue comes from activities other than gambling.

The proposal would increase the fee to $1,500 for each video gambling machine at large truck stops, but would not raise the city's new $500 annual licensing fee for each video gambling machine at other licensed establishments.

Ward 5 Alderman Joni Painter has advocated for continuing the moratorium indefinitely because she objects to the amount of money gambling takes out of the local economy. 

Since 2015, Bloomington has been on the Illinois Gaming Board's list of top 10 video gambling cities. 

Mayor Tari Renner said he sees the proposed restrictions as a compromise, but there are some provisions he does not support.

"I don't think anybody is a big fan (of video gambling), but my position has always been that I am against the moratorium or a ceiling because I think that is artificial. I think the market should determine that," said the mayor.

Renner said the moratorium has prevented some establishments from selling to new owners because they would lose their video gambling machines.

A new state law increases the maximum number of gambling machines per establishment from five to six, but a majority of the council does not support increasing the limit to six machines, said Renner.

Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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