BELLEVILLE — Mayor Mark Eckert said Wednesday he will ask the City Council to place the question of video gaming on the Nov. 6 ballot for the people to decide.
His proposal first will go before the city's Ordinance Committee at a meeting Tuesday and, if approved by that committee, go to the full City Council for approval at its Aug. 6 meeting.
The video gaming referendum can be placed on the ballot at no cost to the city, Eckert said.
Eckert said he decided to ask aldermen to put the issue on the ballot after listening to all sides in a public meeting Tuesday night at City Hall.
"I decided to go ahead and let the public vote," he said. "I have no idea how it will turn out."
Phil Elmore, alderman from Ward 7 and a mayoral candidate in next year's city election, said he thinks a public vote is a fantastic idea.
"It's obvious that was the thing to do," he said. "But I think it should be done in April, as a city issue on the city election. There's no need to rush it. April would give both sides ample time to present their cases."
Melinda Hult, alderwoman from Ward 2 who also is running as Republican candidate for state representative in District 113, said she is thrilled that Eckert thinks the matter needs to go to the voters.
"I intend to make that motion as a member of the Ordinance Committee, which is the proper way to proceed," she said.
Hult said she agrees with Elmore that the question should be on the April 2013 ballot, but isn't sure whether she will lead a charge to attempt to make that change.
Eckert said he voted against video gambling in the city in 1997 as an alderman because at the time it was illegal in the state.
"I thought about it for a long time after it became legal," he said. "I said businesses should have a chance to consider this since so many communities have done it already. I sincerely believe it will put our businesses at a disadvantage if all the other communities have it and we don't."
But he said he also knows there are concerns about crime, addiction and negative images connected with gambling.
The Illinois legislature in 2009 passed a bill allowing video gaming in bars and restaurants, but it has taken this long for the Illinois Gaming Board to put together a framework for regulation.
Businesses must apply to get machines and pass background checks, as must businesses which supply and maintain the machines.
The machines cannot be visible from entrances or through outside windows. All video gaming terminals are to be connected to the Illinois Gaming Board through a computer system which is being implemented.
The state will get 25 percent of revenues from the machines and local cities or counties can get 5 percent.
Cities and counties can decide whether or not to allow video gambling. Many are in the middle of that process.
Contact reporter Wally Spiers at email@example.com or 239-2506.