BELLEVILLE — Residents who do not want video gambling machines in Belleville met with an anti-gambling group on Tuesday to plan a voter awareness campaign before the general election.
Belleville residents will decide whether to allow video gaming machines in liquor-licensed establishments in the city on Nov. 6. State law leaves the decision up to cities.
The group of about a half-dozen metro-east church representatives, aldermen and residents met at Union United Methodist Church in Belleville to discuss how to mobilize voters to vote "no" on the binding referendum.
Anita Bedell, executive director of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, based in Springfield, provided information to attendees on video gambling addiction, increase in crime and the number of cities, including Chicago, that have rejected the machines.
Bedell also said gamblers would have to lose $6 million on the machines in Belleville each year in order for the city to earn $300,000 in revenue. The local share is 5 percent, the state share is 25 percent and the rest is divided by the local establishment that houses the machine and the vendor who operates the machines.
Ward 7 Alderman Phil Elmore asked Bedell's group to pay for bulk mailing an anti-video gambling flyer the week of the election. He said he would provide a list of more than 1,000 residents who are active voters.
Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult said she would be interested in coordinating volunteers to raise money.
Belleville resident Jim Strausbaugh said he is not opposed to gambling and has gambled before, but he does not want gambling to be available "on a local level."
"It's a tax on the poor," Strausbaugh said. "It would be too accessible to people who are vulnerable to addictions."
Strausbaugh said having the machines readily available would make gambling more prevalent than if a resident chose to drive to a casino or just gamble while on vacation.
Strausbaugh said he will volunteer in the next few weeks to educate residents on the negative aspects of video gambling. Strausbaugh, however, also said he will be OK with what voters decide.
"If the majority of people in Belleville want it, I can accept that," he said.
Some business owners in Belleville have said they welcome the extra revenue the machines will bring. They say the machines are well-regulated and will be available elsewhere even if Belleville bans them.
For more information, Bedell of ILCAAAP could be reached at 217-546-6871 or email@example.com.