Several business owners and interested parties attended the Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday to express concern over the village board's decision to uphold an ordinance that bans video gambling.
The board to not repeal the law, passed in 1935, which would have been toward legalizing video poker and other games in the village.
Debbi Krzeminski, co-owner of the , said she and her fellow business owners respectfully requested that the village revisit the ordinance so that they could move on and work on bringing additional revenue to Oswego.
A petition was circulated in the area, according to Dave Lipsman, owner of , to repeal the ban. More than 600 signatures were collected, 340 which belong to Oswego residents.
John Schwartz from the American Legion, with several other Legion members in the audience, made an appearance as well, saying that the Legion would like to stay in Oswego and continue to support the community, but without the video gambling that may not be an option.
“We have to recognize the elephant in the room,” said Mark Brustowitz of the Fox Valley Kickers, who spoke for several local businesses. He said that after reading the rules and regulations of the gambling act, he found that there are organizations in Oswego that are using programs considered to be gambling.
“There is no question in my mind that these various forms of gambling that take place in the village through well intended organizations and charities,” he said. “At some point I’m urging you to take a look at that ordinance and make a decision. Are we going to ban it completely? Allow some forms of it? And in our interest, allow video gaming?”
Some examples Brustowitz brought up include the 50/50 raffle at the Oswego football games, the “Lucky Duck” contests held at Prairie Fest and the 2012 Fox Bend Men’s league $5 “skin” game.
Village President Brian LeClercq asked in the regular board meeting afterwards what exactly the ordinance said, as now he was being told raffles were illegal.
Karl Ottsen, village attorney, said the state has regulation on raffles and bingo and there was a raffle ordinance passed in the village around 1980 so that licensed individuals or groups can conduct raffles.
“My recommendation is for staff to take a look at what you have permitted and what you have not," Ottsen said. "What types of gambling are going on the community?”
LeClercq suggested updating the 1980 ordinance to include not-for-profit and school groups to be eligible to use raffles and other “gambling” tools for fundraising and the like.
The board then went back to the topic of video gambling and if they should consider discussing it again.
Trustee Tony Giles said that in regards to the petition mentioned by Lipsman, he guessed that the signatures gathered were all taken from a population that were in the group that wanted to see it passed.
“If you’re asking your target population and the best you can get is 1 percent of the population of Oswego, what does that show you?," Giles said.
“I still think video gambling is a drain on our economy rather than a boost, but I would be willing to let it go to referendum,” said trustee Scott Volpe. “I would be willing to follow the recommendations of the voters.”
“Where do we draw the line as public officials, and where does it become we drag things out further and further till we put them on referendums?” then asked Giles. “The water is going to get very muddy.”
Trustee Jeff Lawson then asked if everything would be subject to a referendum when they had a disagreement.
Volpe said the board had handled the repeal of the ordinance poorly, as they did not fully understand everything that fell under it, which is why he was bringing up the discussion of video gambling.
Lawson asked then what Volpe thought of video gambling, to which Volpe said he would still vote no to it, as it was a terrible funding source.
“Then nothing’s changed,” said Lawson.
If the board decides to pursue adding the issue to the referendum, it must be submitted by Aug. 20.