Gambling business hits snag in Joliet
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org October 16, 2013 6:06PM
Dotty's, the storefront gambling parlor rejected by the Joliet City Council this week, would have gone into this strip mall near the southeast corner of Route 59 and Theodore Street. | Bob Okon~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 18, 2013 7:48AM
Robin Drackley was leaving the orthodontist’s office Wednesday with her two daughters when she was told that someone wanted to put a gambling parlor next door.
“I think it’s horrible,” Drackley said of the idea.
It won’t happen.
The Joliet City Council this week voted 6-2 against granting a liquor license for what would have been the city’s fifth storefront video gambling parlor, effectively denying it from opening.
Some residents objected to the proposed site in a strip mall at Illinois 59 and Theodore Street, and Councilman Larry Hug said the city should have a plan for how many of these video gambling businesses it wants and where. He said he plans to bring up the issue before the council’s economic development committee.
Video gambling parlors or “cafes” have been spreading throughout Illinois since video gambling was legalized. The businesses offer beer, wine and soft drinks along with salads and sandwiches to attract female customers who otherwise would not gamble at casinos or bars that also have the video machines.
The names of the businesses suggest the target demographic. The parlor rejected this week was to be called Dotty’s. Others that were approved this year are Bonny’s, Betty’s Bistro and Penny’s Place. None have opened as they await approval from the Illinois Gaming Board.
Drackley, who lives in Marseilles, may be just the kind of customer the parlor operators want to attract.
“I’m not against gambling,” she said. “But leave it for the casinos. It doesn’t belong here.”
The same case was made Tuesday by Steve Orlando, who lives in the Pheasant Landing subdivision behind the strip mall where Dotty’s was proposed. Orlando told council members that parents headed to a nearby Wal-Mart might stop first at Dotty’s and lose the grocery money.
“Gambling is an addiction problem,” he said. “It leads to so many bad things.”
In rejecting the liquor license, which is required in Illinois to offer video gambling, the council took a rare stand against gambling in a city that built a minor league baseball stadium and a library branch as well as repaired miles of streets,with gambling revenue from Joliet’s two casinos
The owner of the Dotty’s chain of gambling cafes told the council that the Naperville-based company has 30 locations in Illinois and 151 on the West Coast, where video gambling has a longer history. Dan Fischer said he plans to continue pursuing a site in Joliet, and Hug suggested that he appear before the economic development committee.
Mayor Thomas Giarrante, who’s also the city’s liquor commissioner, voted for the liquor license for Dotty’s.
“This establishment falls under the same guidelines as bars that allow gaming,” Giarrante said, adding that he has placed certain limits on liquor licenses allowed for video gambling to protect established bars and taverns from new operators.
Video gambling has grown rapidly in Joliet and across Illinois since it started a year ago. Joliet this year expects to collect about $120,000 in video gambling tax income, but that’s a pittance compared to the nearly $20 million expected from casino gambling taxes.
The video gambling parlors appeared to be coming fast after council members approved liquor licenses for four of them in February and March. Dotty’s is the first to come up for approval since then.
Deputy Liquor Commissioner Jim Murphy said there are not likely to be many more because there’s little space available for such places at strip malls in the city.
“If there’s any fear that these are going to permeate every strip mall, that’s not going to happen because there is not the space for it,” Murphy said, “and the mayor wouldn’t allow it.”