Belleville considers allowing gambling at bars, restaurants

5:45 AM, Jul 10, 2012   |    comments
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Belleville, IL (KSDK) -- Gambling often means big bucks for the places that allow you to partake in such game-play.  It's the reason that after the State of Illinois made it legal for local municipalities to allow gaming machines in liquor-licensed establishments the topic was brought to the table in Belleville. 


City hall may be mum most days after hours, but come Tuesday night at seven o'clock, Mayor Mark Eckert will host a public hearing, begging the question: To game or not to game?

"I think it'll be a somewhat emotional meeting," said 7th Ward Alderman Phil Elmore, who is a mayoral candidate in next April's election.  He wants to keep gaming machines out of Belleville's bars and restaurants.

"In my ward, I have a lot of taverns that are in neighborhoods, surrounded by residential, maybe a school or two, and that isn't a good combination to have a tavern with an extra $2-3,000 in it and if somebody would actually win, and they gotta walk back to their car, just another target for crime," Elmore explained.

On the other hand, the city's current mayor is making it known that this is a gamble Belleville has to take since others in the area have already upped their ante and approved a change.

"I don't see our city coming, the fibers of the morality becoming unraveled because of this," Eckert said. "I mean, it's gonna be in the area. It's already all around is and I think the opportunity for the Belleville businesses and the Belleville people to choose their right."

Some bars in Belleville already boast gaming machines that don't pay out, much like the bar owners who spoke with NewsChannel 5 Monday, who won't comment on the issue just yet.

"I wouldn't do anything to hurt this city," Mayor Eckert went on to say.

In fact, he wants to use revenues from the gaming machines to add four more police officers, bringing the city's total up to 86.  It's highest number ever.

Elmore understands but added that there are better ways to raise the money than on big bets.

Some time after Tuesday's meeting, there will be a vote among aldermen, and if there's a tie, the mayor will get his way.

It is also important to note that the machines will be regulated gaming commission and no establishment will be allowed to have more than five.  Mayor Eckert will also try to make sure that if the program is passed, all gaming machines are tastefully installed at the bars and restaurants, since most cater to families as well.

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