SWANSEA — Fraternal organizations and other businesses with liquor licenses in Swansea still won't be allowed to have video gambling machines in their establishments, even though they're permitted by state law and have been approved by other towns and St. Clair County.
Village trustees voted 3-3 to repeal the village's ban on video gambling terminals in the village during its meeting Monday night. Swansea Mayor Jim Rauckman broke the tie vote, siding with the trustees who didn't want to see gambling machines in the village.
Trustees Brian Wells, David Thacker and Bill Saak were in favor of repealing the ban, while trustees Ron Sutterfield, Susan Schultz and Susan O'Malley were opposed to allowing the machines.
Rauckman said he was concerned about "strip mall casinos" coming to the village if it allowed video gambling machines in its businesses with liquor licenses.
"I don't think it's the right direction for our community to go," Sutterfield said.
O'Malley said she didn't feel now was the right time for Swansea to consider permitting video gambling. "I'm concerned about the impression of the village," she said, "and I don't see the urgency."
Schultz said she was siding with Swansea residents. "Residents don't want it in their community," she said.
Saak, Thacker and Wells all said they were in favor of video gambling machines as a way to bring in revenue for the village and its fraternal organizations.
More than 50 Swansea residents packed into the meeting room at Firehouse No. 2 to provide input to village trustees before the board vote.
Swansea resident Rita Jarvis said she was opposed to the machines. "It destroys lives," she said.
Resident Ed Grubb said he didn't think revenue generated from the machines would help the village significantly. "I don't think we should be going down the road to use gambling to fill the gaps of the village's financial crisis," he said.
St. Clair County Township Supervisor Tim Buchanan, a resident of Swansea, spoke against video gambling machines. "It looks like a win-win for Swansea and the fraternal organizations," he said, but that's not the case, once you figure in the "social costs, regulation costs and law enforcement costs."
In contrast, several Swansea firefighters expressed support for permitting the gambling machines in the village as a way to bring in additional revenue.
Firefighter Christopher Tell said the machines would bring in much needed revenue for the village. "It's a percentage of money Swansea isn't getting," he said.
Swansea Fire Chief John McGuire, who's also vice president of the Swansea Improvement Association, spoke in support of repealing the ban. "If the village only gets $100,000 from it (gambling), that's $100,000 we didn't have," he said.
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.