Oswego survey shows video gaming interest : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Oswego survey shows video gaming interest|
|Attorney details how village will process license applications|
|by John Etheredge|
About "10 or 11" out of a possible 25 Oswego businesses expressed interest in offering video gaming in a recent survey conducted by Village Clerk Tina Touchette, Karl Ottosen, an attorney for the village, told the village board this past week.
The village board voted 4-2 with one abstention May 7 to allow video gaming in local bars and restaurants that hold class A, C, D, E, or G village liquor licenses.
Under state law, local bars and restaurants that obtain both state and local gaming licenses may have up to five video gaming machines in their establishments.
Ottosen noted the village's video gaming ordinance limits the number of businesses that can hold gaming license in the village to 10.
"And as we said at the time (the ordinance was adopted), we are going to treat that number (10) like we treat the number of liquor license holders," he noted.
Ottosen said when the village receives a request for a liquor license, the board considers whether or not they wish to create an additional license in a particular classification.
"If somebody closes an establishment (with a liquor license), we automatically reduce the number of liquor licenses by one," he said.
Board member Scott Volpe said he believed the board had set a "hard limit" of 10 video gaming licenses when they adopted the ordinance in May.
"It's a hard limit until you change it-just like your liquor licenses," Ottosen said.
He explained that the current 10 video gaming license limit set in the ordinance was a "kind of arbitrary number" put in the ordinance after discussions with village staff. He said it is based on a "best guess estimate" of how many of the village's 25 businesses that hold liquor licenses that would permit video gaming would in fact seek gaming licenses.
"We thought 10 was probably a good number to use and you guys (the board) accepted it," Ottosen said, adding, "One thing I am going to be recommending is that if we go a year and we only have five, six or seven, eight or nine (gaming) licenses (issued), we should take that 10 (limit in the ordinance) and take it down to whatever number we have, so we don't have open licenses out there like we don't have open liquor licenses now," he said.
However, Ottosen said if in a year the village does issue 10 gaming licenses and receives a request for an eleventh, the applicant should be required to come to the board and ask if the board is willing to increase the limit to 11.
"That's a policy decision for you to decide how many licensees you should have," he said.
In addition to having an applicable village liquor license, businesses seeking to offer video gaming must first file an application with the state.
As of last week, Ottosen said five local businesses have filed applications for gaming licenses, based on information obtained by Touchette from the Illinois Liquor Commission website.
"There are some other (businesses) that are interested, but we don't know how often the state updates its website-so there might be more than five Oswego establishments that are in the process of attempting to get a state (gaming) license," he said, adding, "None of the licenses have been issued yet."
Ottosen added the village will not process any gaming license applications until after they are first approved by the state.
"Any establishment that is interested can certainly apply, but it (the application) won't get processed here (with the village), until after the state license is granted," he said.
Ottosen said village attorneys and staff are currently attempting to figure out if the village should stop taking applications when 10 are received or accept them since the state may not approve all of the applications.
Ottosen said his recommendation is for the village to process the applications it receives in the order in which they are received.
"We are trying to be fair. We want to make sure that the local establishments that are here have an opportunity to apply," he said
He noted that business owners outside the village seeking to open establishments that offer video gaming must first obtain a liquor license from the village. After obtaining the license, they will be advised to apply for a video gaming license. If they are approved by the state, he said they will then be instructed to apply for a village gaming license.
"I think timing-wise the local establishments do have an advantage since they already have a local liquor license and if they want to apply to the state they're a foot ahead of some other people who might want to come in (to the village) and start new," he said.
Ottosen acknowledged he and village staff previously discussed "holding off" on processing some applications, but have since agreed that "we don't really need to do that."
"Unless someone objects we will just have the village clerk and the village liquor commission (Village President Brian LeClercq) process applications in the order of the state licenses are received," he said.
Board member Tony Giles expressed concern that two firms interested in locating in the village had been told they would have to wait on their applications.
"I personally thought that was wrong," Giles said.
He added, "Since there is not a firm ceiling at (10) licenses no one was really going to be without one that really wanted one," he said.
"Well, we don't know that," Ottosen said. "Because it might be a firm ceiling if that's what this board wants. I can't make that policy decision and right now our ordinance says a maximum of 10 (licenses will be issued). That's what we have to tell applicants and it was believed to be appropriate to give a little lead time to our current liquor licenses to try and get started on the process."
When questioned further by Giles, Ottosen said the village is not obligated to issue gaming licenses beyond the limits set in current ordinances.
Ottosen emphasized the gaming licenses are regulated in a manner similar to the village's liquor licenses.
The board, he said, can deny liquor or gaming licenses if they do not meet requirements contained in village ordinances.
He said if a business meets all the requirements for a video gaming license the village is obligated to issue a license-providing the 10 license limit included in the ordinance has not yet been met.
"It's the same thing if I were to want to open a liquor store, but you (the board) had said we have enough (liquor stores) and we're not going to increase the number of that type of license you're gong to tell me, 'Karl, you can't come in yet. You have to wait until someone closes down their (store) and then you can have their (license)."
Ottosen noted that the amount of time it will take for the state to process an application may vary.
Ottosen noted the board's vote to permit video gaming did not affect its current process for handling liquor license requests.
"Once you have a particular type of liquor license, you can now apply to the state and then ultimately to the village for a video gaming license," he said, adding, "It doesn't impact the upfront liquor license process.
"So we will have two tracks of people we will be following: one applying for liquor licenses and then the second, if they are interested, in pursuing state and village licenses for video gaming."