Peoria council questions city proposal on video gaming fees

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PEORIA — City Council members had plenty of questions about a proposal to increase fees on video gaming machines within Peoria.

5th District Councilman Denis Cyr criticized the proposed increase, which would double fees from $500 to $1,000 for each machine, noting the $500 fee is already double what is charged in Joliet and Springfield.

At-large Councilman Zach Oyler wondered if the fee increase might cost Peoria revenue if owners decided to forgo machines.

Corporation counsel Don Leist said the staff proposal was designed to encouraged taverns and restaurants to sell more food and beverages while holding a license to have video gaming terminals in their place of business. Under the proposal, businesses would have to derive half their income from food and beverages to have five terminals, 40 percent for four terminals and 30 percent for three. A business would have to have 25 percent of its sales to provide two gaming terminals.  

At-large Councilwoman Beth Jensen asked if City Hall planned to follow up on compliance by business owners to the food and beverage standards.

What was lacking, said At-large Councilwoman Beth Akeson, was a sense of how much in food or drink sales these businesses were making. The councilwoman noted she and her colleagues had received information on how much money was made by the video gaming machines in each business but not how much other business was done. City Manager Patrick Urich said he’d provide numbers to council members that showed raw sales but that didn’t identify the business.

Slightly more than half — 42 of 70 or so businesses that have a video gaming license — see people gamble more than $1 million a year at their tavern or business, said Mayor Jim Ardis in his defense of the fee increase. The proposal was up for a first reading and not a final vote.

Council members also passed a resolution at the behest of Jensen to support WCBU-FM, Peoria’s public radio station. The station, which has operated on the Bradley University campus since 1970, is reportedly considering a partnership with WGLT-FM, the Bloomington public radio station.

Members of the public expressed concern that Peoria might lose the station under the new arrangement. “The Bradley administration is not seeing the value in the station. All they’re seeing is the expense,” said Tom Hunt, a former general manager of the station who retired in 2015.

Also, Jeff Griffin, president of the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, addressed the council. “What concerned me was the disdain and dismissiveness (shown by the council) towards Realtors, BIZpac and the chamber,” he said, referring to comments made during last year’s budget sessions.

Griffin then offered his help in solving the state’s pension reform. “I’ll be there Friday,” he said, referring to a meeting at the Gateway Building that will be attended by state legislators.

In other business, 1st District Councilwoman Denise Moore asked Chris Setti, president of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, if there’d been any progress on getting a minority representative on the Economic Development Board. Setti, who put on a presentation on the EDC, said he was working on it.

Peoria police Chief Loren Marion III also provided details on a national accreditation program involving the Peoria Police Department.

Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com. Follow him at Twitter@SteveTarter and facebook.com/tartersource.

via News – Journal Star http://bit.ly/2FboPoS

January 9, 2019 at 12:14AM

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