O'Fallon Progress

O’Fallon moves forward with limits on video gaming

So as not to have “mini-casinos” dotting the town, the O’Fallon City Council has taken steps to strengthen its video gaming requirements by considering amendments to a 2015 ordinance.

The clarifications draft on stand-alone video gaming cafes advanced on first reading at Monday’s council meeting, although it could be further tweaked by the Community Development Committee before the final reading June 12.

Concern that the character of establishments and neighborhoods not be altered, plans for more detailed guidance and regulation were put into motion by city staffers last month.

The new provisions establish minimum square footage, business guidelines and liquor license requirements.

“To ensure that video gaming remains an appropriate accent to legitimately operating businesses in the city, and do not become ‘mini-casinos,’ staff believes the following changes to the city code should be considered primarily for commercial video gaming establishments (truck stop and retail),” Ted Shekell, director of community development, wrote in a memo to council members.

Those changes include:

▪ 50 percent of total gross revenue must come from sale of food, beverages, and alcohol and an applicant must submit a verified report each year.

▪ Applicants must have maintained a licensed establishment in good standing for at least 24 months prior to applying for a video gaming permit.

▪ Establishments must be compliance with all local zoning ordinances.

▪ Provisions would not not apply to fraternal or veterans establishments.

▪ The 24-month provision would not apply to establishments with existing video gaming permits or have permit applications pending before the Illinois Gaming Board.

The two-year, pre-existing liquor license requirement is meant to ensure that the location is likely to succeed and is appropriate for operation of a liquor establishment (a precondition for video gaming). It would also require the video gaming permit address location to have had a city liquor license in good standing for at least two years prior to the issuance of the video gaming permit.

Outgoing city attorney Dale Funk, current city attorney Todd Fleming, and Dan Vogel, the city’s special legal counsel for land use, drafted the amendment framework. The proposal was recommended 6-0 by the Community Development Committee on May 22.

While supportive of the tougher restrictions, Alderman Andrew Lopinot said he thought a two-year hold is too long for an established business to wait.

“I’m hesitant about it, because what if a business, already in Belleville, applied for a license?” he said.

Alderman Ray Holden said that the committee could take that into consideration after the ordinance passed on first reading.

“Good point,” Holden said.

In light of last month’s denial of a proposed video gaming café, the committee asked the city for additional information on stand-alone operations.

In a 4-10 council vote May 15, the proposal by local businessman Abdullah Abraham of Maryville for an O’Fallon Café failed.

Abraham, who owns Raqqa Inc., wanted to open the video gaming café at 1334 Central Park Drive, Suite 3, that would have included alcohol sales and consumption in the vacant, 1,300-square-feet space of Sunrise Center II.

O’Fallon resident Gary Hursey, who had been critical of the business proposal at the May 15 council meeting, again took to the podium during public comments to applaud the council’s new efforts.

Since the 2015 ordinance was established, the city has seen gaming terminals removed in at least two cases.