Oak Park bans sweepstakes gambling machines

Ordinance prevents video gambling loophole seen in other municipalities

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Video gambling has been prohibited in Oak Park for nearly a decade, and now the so-called video sweepstakes machines are forbidden in the village as well.

The Oak Park Board of Trustees approved an ordinance at its Nov. 19 meeting, expressly prohibiting the machines, stating in the ordinance that keeping them out of Oak Park is necessary for the "public health, safety and welfare" of the community. 

The concern comes from sweepstakes machines appearing in and around the city of Chicago. The machines are similar to video gambling machines, but the winners receive a ticket, which is then redeemed at a counter for cash.

Spin City, 6522 W. North Ave., is among the closest sweepstakes machine sites to Oak Park, located on the Chicago side of North Avenue.

Oak Park Village Manager Cara Pavlicek told trustees at the meeting that the sweepstakes machine ordinance was introduced over concerns about loopholes in the law that are being taken advantage of by businesses in neighboring communities.

Judith Alexander, chair of the community group The North Avenue District (T-NAD), said her organization, which advocates for business development on North Avenue, strongly supports the prohibition.

"These machines exploit a gray area of Illinois law, unlike standard video gambling they pay no taxes and anyone can install them – no licensing is required," she said. 

She called them a "likely, but preventable Oak Park problem."

"We think it's only a matter of time before these machines show up on North Avenue and elsewhere in the village," she said.

Trustee Jim Taglia said he went to Spin City to investigate the establishment and said, "It's just like a casino."

"You walk in there, you put your money in the machine, not that I did that (he joked), and if you win, not that I won, you go get your money at the counter," he said.

He said gambling in "encircling Oak Park at the present, and right now we're like an island, and I want to keep it that way."

Trustee Deno Andrews said he tends to be more Libertarian about businesses opening in the village, but said he opposes video gambling and sweepstakes machines.

"This type of gambling exploits people, it tears apart families and I don't want any part of it in our village," he said.

The ordinance comes about a month after voters in the village of Forest Park banned video gambling machines from that municipality through a referendum.


Reader Comments

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Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 29th, 2018 8:35 AM

...which, just so no-one chimes again...to point again...does not currently include "sweepstakes" machines.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 29th, 2018 8:22 AM

well Jason you just keep on passive aggressively scratching that head. And, once again. you're taking liberties with my comments. I'm not standing on a stump advocating for gaming halls in Oak Park. But I also don't have a problem with legalized, regulated and taxable video gaming.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: November 29th, 2018 2:00 AM

@Ada, why would we willingly add more crime risk to our community for basically no value. Any tax gain would be very small. By adding places like this you make the police pay attention to them which then means they aren't paying attention to everywhere else. This is effectively a hidden cost to having these in our community. It's really a head scratcher that you don't get why we are better off without them.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: November 28th, 2018 9:58 PM

Ada: Relax. I'm sure Deno can do another "napkin" drawing and make it all better.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 28th, 2018 9:21 PM

I don't have a problem with legalized video gambling? Do you? I also think these Sweepstakes games, which Judith has pointed out aren't video gambling, should be looped into video gambling so we can tax them. Anything else Tom? Or are you feeling overly cantankerous tonight? I know I am b/c the thought if having this 28 story high-rise being built in that particular location on Lake St. is about to make me blow a gasket.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 28th, 2018 5:53 PM

@Ada, I see. Video gambling is OK because it doesn't create shade on the park. It is just shady by nature.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 28th, 2018 4:08 PM

Judith there is no confusion. Think I made it clear, they swim in murky waters of legality. What I'm saying is - find a way to tax them. I've also read several articles on this subject. I've learned all I need to. So I'm moving on.

Judith Alexander from Oak Park  

Posted: November 28th, 2018 3:58 PM

There seems to be some confusion about taxability. Video GAMBLING is taxable and operators must be licensed. You'll find these machines, operating legally, in Berwyn and Elmwood Park. They have never been legal in Oak Park, even though they could be a source of revenue. Video SWEEPSTAKES machines exploit a legal loophole, aren't taxable and don't require licensing. Operators insist they are not gambling because you don't have to pay to play your first game or two, and you can take your winnings in merchandise as well as cash. Oak Park trustees approved an ordinance explicitly prohibiting these machines.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 28th, 2018 2:18 PM

Tom I'm not familiar with them one way or the other. But at this rate I'm looking for possibilities of taxable income. In the same manner you believe high rises in our downtown district to be perfectly copacetic as a fix to adding revenue to our village. The only difference is these machines can be confiscated pretty quickly if need be. Once a high rise is built the damage is done.

Tom MacMillan  

Posted: November 28th, 2018 1:25 PM

@Ada - not sure why you would want to have these businesses here, ever. Attracting business to town does not mean we need anything that calls itself a business. These businesses bring the same excitement as massage parlors and methadone clinics.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 28th, 2018 12:42 PM

Jason - I think you're taking liberties with your use of the term "excited". I've never been affected by these machines one way or the other. And I don't have a problem with gambling or "sweepstakes" machines if they can be taxed and regulated. Just b/c they currently aren't doesn't mean they can't be. I also feel people not machines are responsible for their actions, so if there are people breaking the law by disturbing the peace, illegal drug use, etc. at facilities using these then they need to be held accountable.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: November 27th, 2018 10:41 PM

@Ada, why are you so excited to bring gaming machines to OP? Show me any instance where people were really excited about these being in their neighborhood. I can't think of a single reason to have these. I could care less if they are only allowed to be in casinos. If people want to play them they can go to casinos. At this point it doesn't matter. OP made the right call and it's a done deal and I think it's great.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 27th, 2018 8:40 PM

first of all Judith - I asked specifically what problems - b/c you didn't say. And if those types of things are happening then it's the establishments fault and not the sweepstakes gaming. If done properly, and if the state of IL could figure it out, this could be taxable income and the machines could be permitted and regulated. And if we did this, then less sleazy people would be swimming in the murky waters of it. I read 10 news articles on why everyone from Rahm to that guy in Galewood or Elmwood Park you reference (whose name I can't remember) didn't want these gaming machines and the only responses I read was "yeah we don't like it" and we want gambling centralized at one casino...which to me sounded ulterior. If illegal activity is happening then the cops should intervene...like the massage parlors.

Neal Buer  

Posted: November 27th, 2018 4:41 PM

Judith you wrote, "Bruce and Neal, if taxability were the issue, why would Oak Park already have prohibited video gambling." I'm certain it would be legal if the village could tax it,

Jason Cohen  

Posted: November 27th, 2018 1:50 PM

I can't think of a single reason we would want this in Oak Park. I don't understand why anyone would argue against this ban. Glad this is done. Well done.

Neal Buer  

Posted: November 27th, 2018 10:45 AM

Not really sure that gambling causes urination in the alley.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 27th, 2018 10:31 AM

These gambling businesses are sleazy. They take advantage of poor people. They attract nothing good and bring only trouble. Good move keeping them out of town. A true no brainer decision.

Judith Alexander from Oak Park  

Posted: November 27th, 2018 10:07 AM

Bruce and Neal, if taxability were the issue, why would Oak Park already have prohibited video gambling. And Ada, if video gambling didn't create problems, why did Forest Park citizens just vote to prohibit it? On North Ave., patrons of the recently closed EXP (which had video games, but not gambling) hung out in the alley, smoking pot and creating a disturbance. The 3 nightclubs on the Chicago side were a greater problem. At two of them, there was violence. People parked on residential streets (both in Chicago and Oak Park) until the wee hours. When they went back to their cars, they were loud, urinated on parkways and in alleys, and had sex. Syringes were found, along with many cigarette butts and empty bottles. How wold you feel if this happened in front of your house, especially if you had young children? North Avenue is not set up to be an entertainment district. There are single family homes and two-flats on the first blocks north and south. The North Avenue District is all about economic development. But some businesses (like pawnshops) are such a turn-off for local residents that they stay away from North Ave. That's bad for our other businesses (restaurants, dry cleaners, etc.) and bad for the tax base in general.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 26th, 2018 9:34 PM

what kind of problems?

Bruce Kline  

Posted: November 26th, 2018 9:01 PM

Neal: Yep ... that's the bottom line alright.

Neal Buer  

Posted: November 26th, 2018 8:07 PM

Video gambling is bad because it cannot be taxed, but a 28 story building is OK because it can be taxed. Now I understand.

Geoff Binns-Calvey  

Posted: November 26th, 2018 7:47 PM

Ada, the financial structure of the state lottery is very different than video gambling machines or sweepstakes machines. The Illinois lottery is much more like a "Split the pot" raffle, like you might see at your church event. In both cases, 50% of the money collected is paid out as the prize, and the other 50% is used to benefit everyone, whether it's the Building Fund of your church, or to pay for education in the State budget. Video gambling is a for profit venture- 70% of the money goes into private hands. I'm not sure of the breakdown on sweepstakes machines, but you can be sure it's a for profit venture as well, with a "gray area" cash flow.

Judith Alexander from Oak Park  

Posted: November 26th, 2018 7:43 PM

Ada and Brian, these machines can't be taxed because they don't fall within the provisions of IL gambling law. Video gambling (the kind that pays taxes), is currently prohibited in Oak Park. We've already had a lot of trouble with a video gaming (not gambling) venue on North Ave., as well as 2 Chicago-side bars/nightclubs. That's why we oppose electronic sweepstakes. If you think it should be legal, I encourage you to share your views with the village board. Klara, I make comments on North Avenue matters because I chair The North Avenue District. We're working to revitalize North Ave. from Austin to Harlem. Another member of our board commented on a different North Ave. matter at the same meeting. You can find out more about our organization here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/107435609823334/?ref=br_tf

Klara Gabor  

Posted: November 26th, 2018 5:53 PM

Is Judith Alexander co Mayor of Oak Park? Maybe running against the Mayor in the next election? Seems she always has to get her two cents worth in and, let us all know what should and should not be done in the village.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 26th, 2018 5:37 PM

I also find it interesting that everyone is skirting the issue here. We have a lottery, which people spend a fortune on, but b/c it's taxable and helps fund state programs it's fine. Just tax it. It's a win win.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: November 26th, 2018 5:13 PM

Do we get to keep our Big Gulps...b/c all that sugary soda...

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: November 26th, 2018 4:41 PM

Oak Park bans sweepstakes gambling machines? Arent those taxpayers?

Judith Alexander from Oak Park  

Posted: November 26th, 2018 3:39 PM

It's much easier and more effective to prohibit a negative use proactively than to deal with one after it opens. That's why Spin City remains open despite Ald. Taliaferro's efforts to get it closed. We thank village staff and trustees for being proactive in response to our request that electronic sweepstakes machines be prohibited

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