Will County Executive Larry Walsh signs County Board resolution prohibiting additional video poker machines in unincorporated Will County
Says “time to get serious” about governing in Will County
JOLIET – With some serious reservations, Will County Executive Larry Walsh signed a resolution recently approved by the Will County Board that prohibits additional video poker licenses in establishments in unincorporated Will County. Walsh said although there was sizable opposition to one establishment in Frankfort Township, the action taken by the board is mostly symbolic.
“There were several bills introduced in Springfield this year and the County Board should have taken a more serious approach to this ‘critical’ problem they have identified,” said Walsh. “Instead they focused on one establishment in one part of our county. I hope that despite this resolution being more of a ‘feel good’ action, they will get serious and be proactive in pushing our state legislators to enact legislation that actually limits future expansion of these types of gaming devices that are found throughout Will County, now and in the future.”
Walsh made it clear that he is opposed to the proliferation of store front video poker establishments that often occupy a very small amount of space in strip malls across the county. These types of establishments are not what was envisioned when the original legislation was passed. However, the action by the County Board will not have any impact on these types of businesses that are within municipal boundaries.
“Video poker was approved by the Illinois General Assembly in 2009, but did not really begin until 2012 across Illinois,” said Walsh. “During this period there was lots of rhetoric, but no action by the Will County Board to ban this form of gaming until April 2015. Meanwhile numerous small businesses, VFWs, and American Legion Halls successfully secured these licenses which helped these establishments keep their doors open and was the original intent of this legislation.”
Walsh said that the action taken by the current County Board only applies to the unincorporated areas of Will County and for new licenses. Businesses that currently have a video poker license will not lose their ability to have gaming machines. Additionally, municipalities such as Joliet, Lockport, Crest Hill and others may continue to allow video poker gaming in their communities.
Residents should not be misled to believe that this action somehow outlaws video poker across all of Will County. According to Walsh, at least 19 Will County municipalities still allow video poker establishments in their towns. There are also approximately 229 different locations for video poker currently in the County.
“Like it or not, gambling is very prevalent in Illinois and is mainly intended to be a revenue supplement for all levels of government,” said Walsh. “With this action, Will County government will lose additional revenue and remove another tool for some small businesses to succeed in the unincorporated areas of the county.”
Walsh also expressed his disappointment that the County Board never seriously urged state Legislators to support proposed legislation that would tighten video poker rules across all areas of Illinois. If such laws are passed, the restrictions would apply to all communities and residents would then begin to see a reduction in these types of gaming establishments.