Bar seeking video gaming license
Mother Helen Akis and daughter Connie Reczek are shown at the family's bar and restaurant, Shooter's Bar in Harwood Heights. The business has applied for a video gaming license from the state, but the village has yet to adopt an ordinance allowing for thi
Updated: August 20, 2012 10:59AM
HARWOOD HEIGHTS — The Illinois Gaming Board’s recent approval of video gambling licenses in suburban locations doesn’t necessarily mean businesses have the right to install video poker and blackjack machines in their establishments.
They first need to win over local authorities, who have the ultimate say in whether gambling is allowed in their respective municipality.
The Heights Bar, 6436 W. Montrose Ave., Harwood Heights, and Hermann’s Rest A While, 300 Center St., Port Barrington, were among 18 sites awarded gaming licenses at the tail-end of June.
Shooter’s Buffet and Catering, 4538 N. Harlem Ave., Harwood Heights, also sought state approval and has an application pending.
Connie Reczek, co-owner of Shooter’s, made an appeal to Harwood Heights trustees in May to amend an ordinance to allow for gambling.
“It’s an added entertainment for the adults that come in here,” Reczek said. “It does a lot for our community, too, because it’s extra revenue coming in.”
Current village law states that gambling and betting is not allowed. New state legislation regulating video gambling, however, is forcing local governments to include clearer and stronger language in their ordinances, thereby causing dozens of Illinois towns to reconsider the matter.
Harwood Heights is proceeding slowly before taking a stance on whether or not to legalize the video-betting machines.
“We’re questioning the (state) rules and moving cautiously,” said Village Clerk Marcia Pollowy. “We want to do what other communities are doing. We don’t want to be the lead on this.”
Plus, Pollowy said, the amount of money the village would earn from the machines isn’t enough to make it a done deal.
Illinois law mandates that the state receives 25 percent of gaming revenue, the county or town gets five percent, and the rest be split between the hosting venue and machine operator.
Pollowy said she expects the village to hold a series of public hearing sessions in August after the budget is passed.
“We want to get the village residents’ input,” she said. “We’re not against anybody but this is something new and different coming in. We just don’t want to jump into a hot pit.”
While video gambling is a newer issue to officials, Reczek has been planning to create an adult-only gaming room at Shooter’s since 2010.
She said the gambling machines enhance one’s dining experience and that many of her customers are already on board.
Though Reczek estimates 80 percent of Shooter’s patrons play the Lotto when they visit, she does not think the addition of five video-gambling machines would attract shady hardcore betters.
“I don’t think Shooter’s is going to be a gaming destination,” she said. “But you can come and have a nice dinner, play the lottery, play the video gaming, and have a nice time all around.”
“It’s a positive for everybody.”