SWANSEA — With Belleville voters passing a binding referendum earlier this month, the village of Swansea is now surrounded by video gambling, according to Trustee Brian Wells.
"We are putting a few of our businesses at a disadvantage," Wells said. "Belleville to south and west of us, Fairview to our north and Shiloh to our east, we are completely surrounded by this."
Belleville, Fairview Heights and Shiloh all allow video gambling terminals in businesses with liquor licenses as permitted by state law. St. Clair County also permits video gaming.
Wells and members of the fraternal organization CKL of I Country Club would like the village to reconsider permitting video gambling for a third time.
The Village Board voted down video gambling in June and then again in September when it was brought up for another vote.
Mayor Jim Rauckman advised residents who would like to see video gambling in the village to circulate a petition to get a referendum on the ballot in April.
"The people that want it, they should go out and get the signatures," he said.
Both Belleville and Collinsville placed a referendum regarding video gambling on the Nov. 6 ballot. Belleville's referendum was binding whereas Collinsville's was non-binding, which means the City Council could still not permit gambling terminals in the city.
To get a referendum on the ballot, Wells said he believes at least 11 percent of the voters who cast a ballot in the last election must sign a petition.
It's unclear if any of the fraternal organizations in Swansea -- the CKL of I, Moose Lodge or Swansea Improvement Association -- will decide to start a petition.
However, Ed Wottowa with the CKL of I said the organization would like the village to reconsider the issue of video gambling.
During the Village Board's judiciary committee meeting last week, he said the CKL of I won't be able to continue to operate at its current level without additional revenue.
"Heaven knows we need the income," Wottowa said.
He described video gambling as "not a big deal. It's not going to break anybody," Wottowa said. "It's under such state control it can't hurt anybody."
Video gambling terminals are monitored by the Illinois Gaming Board.
Trustee Susan O'Malley said the village has considered permitting just the fraternal organizations in town to have video gaming terminals, but further research revealed "that's not an option" per state law.
In addition to circulating a petition, Rauckman suggested advocates of video gambling wait until after the April municipal election, when the mayor and four trustee positions will be up for grabs. At that time, he said the newly elected village officials could consider permitting video gaming terminals in the village.
"It's not going to kill us to do it. I'd wish we'd reconsider this," Wells said of video gambling. "Whether you like it or not, it's coming. Whether we do it at this board or not, it's going to get done."
Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or firstname.lastname@example.org.