Gambling Board Wants Local Control of Boat Bars
Fusco, Chris, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Chris Fusco Daily Herald Staff Writer
Worried that dockside gambling may turn casinos into "taverns of last resort," state gaming officials want municipal leaders to set the hours gamblers drink in their communities.
The Illinois Gaming Board, Chairman Robert F. Vickrey said Thursday, began considering the change in June after the General Assembly approved letting the state's nine casinos stay docked the 22 hours they are open each day. Casinos are allowed to serve liquor the entire time.
Since going into effect June 25, dockside gambling has boosted casino revenues 34 percent over the same five-month period last year. But anti-drunken driving groups have complained the move will turn casinos into drunk tanks.
In Elgin, for example, all but one of the city's bars, restaurants and nightclubs close no later than 2 a.m. Drinkers then can migrate to the Grand Victoria, which closes at 6:30 a.m.
"Casinos for years have complained about having a level playing field in terms of dockside gaming with Iowa," Vickrey said, noting dockside gambling puts tavern owners at a disadvantage to casinos. "What this rule does is it takes it into the public domain.
"The norms for (liquor-serving hours) in Alton, Ill., Metropolis, Ill., and Aurora, Ill., may not be the same. Let the people locally decide."
The gaming board rule, approved 4-0 Thursday, caught casino operators and municipal officials off-guard. Just last week three casinos, including the Grand Victoria, agreed to drop requests for 24-hour gambling because of a public outcry against it.
"We were not aware this was going to be an item today," said Tim Touhy, spokesman for the Illinois Casino Gaming Association. However, "should the rule be fully adopted, the casino licensees will follow it."
The gaming board's approval of the change sets off a 45-day public-comment period followed by a review by the state's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. …