1. Presentation by Gurnee American Legion Regarding Video Gaming
Legionnaire spokesperson Mr. Jim Huisel gave an overview of Gurnee American Post 771 including history, the four pillars of the American Legion (Americanism; Children & Youth; National Security & Foreign Relations; Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation) and a financial review of the past nine years indicating they only have enough funds to operate for the next three years. Mr. Huisel stated that in order for the Legion to survive, grow, and remain solvent, they need a new source of income; thus, they have come before the Village Board to request video gaming at Post 771.
Upon completion of their presentation, Village Attorney Bryan Winter reviewed the legal gaming Statute. He referred to the 2009 Video Gaming Act and its definition which includes Fraternal and Veteran’s Organizations and Section 27 which indicates “a municipality may pass an ordinance prohibiting video gaming within the corporate limits of the municipality.” Attorney Winter cited several cases that are currently in litigation regarding video gaming. To summarize, he stated the Village has two options: 1) Take No action: By Statute, Video Gaming is Automatically Allowed, or 2) Pass Ordinance to “Opt Out.” He stated if the Village allows gaming, it would be available to all that qualify. The Village cannot just allow it for the Legion.
The Mayor clarified stating the Village wants to help the American Legion; however, the Village is not on firm legal ground making the American Legion an exception. She then queried the Village Board to find out if they wanted to reconsider video gaming for the American Legion understanding that it not be limited to just the American Legion.
Trustee Balmes asked how many of the 52 liquor licenses currently held by the Village are non-franchise and what the hours of operation the American Legion would have. Attorney Winter stated we would certainly not have 52 establishments requesting video gaming and he would check and determine the number of non-franchises. Legionnaire Gordon Finkel, 5055 Glendale Drive, stated the hours of operation would typically be noon to 10 p.m.
Trustee Hood stated he compares the Legion to the church regarding relevancy. He believes the Village wants to be part of the answer; however, video gaming is not an avenue he would like to pursue.
Trustee Garner echoed Trustee Balmes’ question regarding the licenses already held by the Village and also asked about the problems and issues incurred by those Legion Posts who currently hold video gaming licenses. He further stated that he is in favor of taking a closer look at video gaming and all it encompasses.
Trustee Wilson stated he would like to move forward with something that protects the Village while at the same time provides the needed funding source for the American Legion.
Trustee Park asked if the establishments that have seen an increase in income was due to an increase of new people generating new revenue. Legionnaire Gordon Finkel answered stating his observation at other local Posts is that there are no new people.
Trustee Park asked if the Village chose to “Opt In” which would allow American Legion to have video gaming and then chose to “Opt Out” if litigation occurred, would that be feasible. Attorney Winter stated that Village could not reverse their decision as it would cause significant consequences.
Trustee Ross stated she is Chairman of the Board of Visit Lake County, which is highly dependent on visitors, and the perception is that Gurnee is a family oriented Village; however, if visitors see that Gurnee allows video gaming, it would not be a favorable reflection and feels this not the way the Village would want to go. She further stated if we can’t make an exception for the American Legion, she would have a hard time agreeing to a gaming license.
Trustee Wilson stated that he sees the decision as an “Opt In” or “Opt Out” decision.
After final discussion, the Mayor concurred with the Board that video gaming is not a good fit for the Village of Gurnee but committed to finding a viable solution to increasing the American Legion’s financial base.