Westchester village officials are currently reviewing their video gaming ordinance in order to attract and keep businesses. The current regulations have faced criticism for making it difficult for businesses to get a liquor license for video gaming terminals. Westchester is at a crossroads and needs to find a balance between economic growth and community concerns, especially with neighboring suburbs experiencing a gaming industry boom.

Gaming in Westchester has brought in $3.3 million, with $965,695 going to state taxes and $166,499 going to municipal taxes. However, Westchester is falling behind Melrose Park, where 32 businesses have 179 gaming terminals, making it more attractive to businesses in the gaming industry.

Village President Greg Hribal is concerned about missed opportunities because of the current ordinance. Hribal is frustrated with the long waiting period for a license, which discourages potential investors. Trustee Peter Marzano shares this concern and wants to involve the public in open forums to discuss the issue in depth.

Another challenge is the requirement that businesses must have been established in the village for at least two years to get a liquor license for gaming terminals. This discourages legitimate businesses from considering Westchester and encourages them to look elsewhere. Trustee Nick Steker is worried about businesses posing as restaurants on applications just to rely on gaming revenue.

Westchester resident Diane Scott thinks community involvement is important during the review process. Scott wants to use available resources to connect with residents and include them in discussions about the future of the village. She believes transparency and public input are crucial for making the best decision.

To address the challenges, village officials are examining not only their own video gaming ordinance but also the ordinances of neighboring suburbs. They want to learn from successful models and find areas for improvement that can attract businesses while still addressing community concerns.

As part of the review, officials are considering raising the video gaming liquor license fee from $5,000 to $15,000. They also want to strengthen local regulations for gaming terminals to ensure responsible and compliant operations. During the review, no video gaming liquor licenses are being approved in Westchester.

Businesses in Westchester wanting to operate gaming terminals must show that food and beverage sales make up at least 60% of their annual gross sales revenue. This shows the village’s commitment to maintaining a balance between gaming and other parts of the local economy.

From January to August, $38 million was played at Westchester’s gaming terminals, with bettors winning $34.7 million. These numbers show the potential economic benefits if Westchester can create a more business-friendly gaming environment.

The staff review gives businesses a chance to present their plans to the village board and continue the conversation about their contributions to the community. Westchester hopes to find a balance that promotes economic growth while addressing residents’ concerns.

As the review continues, village officials are updating their economic development plan. Trustee Victoria Vann says this update is necessary to make sure the village’s long-term vision aligns with the changing gaming industry.

In conclusion, Westchester village is reviewing its video gaming ordinance to find a balance between economic growth and community interests. The ongoing review, which includes considering raising the video gaming liquor license fee and strengthening local regulations, aims to make Westchester more appealing to businesses while being transparent and involving the public. Through this process, Westchester hopes to be a competitive player in the gaming industry while keeping its unique character.