Niebur makes plea for video gaming expansion

EDWARDSVILLE — After several attempts at city council meetings to plead his case, Corner Tavern owner Randy Niebur came to last Thursday’s administrative and community services (ACS) committee to once again ask for local businesses to be able to partake in video gaming.

At city council, there is no interaction between the aldermen and those in the audience. There is public comment but it’s only from the person to the aldermen. At the committee level, aldermen and citizens have conversations regularly.

“Two months ago, I had emailed all of the aldermen about their thoughts on the future of video gaming, expanding it to privately owned businesses,” he said. Of the seven aldermen, only Janet Stack and Elizabeth Grant replied, so he came to ACS to get feedback from the others.

Niebur noted that the ordinance calls for a review to occur in November and after which, the city would either expand or repeal the ordinance on video gaming. Niebur said he didn’t know if the city had put together a review committee yet. Currently, three fraternal organizations, the Knight of Columbus, the Moose Lodge and the local American Legion offer or will offer video gaming.

“We started the inspection process,” said City Administrator Kevin Head, “Right now, we only have one operating.”

“The other two are still working out some [issues],” interjected City Attorney Jeff Berkbigler.

“Once the other two [are ready], we’ll inspect them to make sure they’re in compliance and then part of the study was to look at the finances and the impact to our community,” Head said. “It’s hard to do that unless they’re operating. We may have to delay that a little bit because we really don’t have any data.”

Alderman Krause said when the review was discussed, it was thought that the fraternal organizations could get the gambling machines right away but there have been delays.

“It’s not been a delay in the machines, it’s been the facilities themselves, the permits and licensing,” Head said. “I believe the legion will be next and they all have their new license in place and the KC Hall will be third.”

Krause told Niebur that personally, he is not opposed to video gaming. He is opposed, however, to governments repeatedly putting an item on ballots with the slim hope it might be passed. He said informal polling shows that most residents in his ward are against it and the election results from April bore that out city-wide.

“For me, it’s a moot point at this point whether we would want to expand video gaming in the future,” he said. Stack remains opposed due to potential negative consequences to the area’s college students. Alderman SJ Morrison is probably the most vehement voice on the council against video gaming.

Maryville reversed its long-held ban on video gaming during the summer and Glen Carbon approved it last year.

Niebur asked if any of the profits from video gaming could be routed to businesses directly impacted by not having video gaming, such as his. He said in the past, people had to drive to Wood River or Collinsville to gamble, now they can do it at one of the fraternals.

The sticking points for Niebur are that there are three fraternal organizations allowed to offer it (even if two of them cannot just yet) and Midwest Petroleum’s gas station/convenience store on Route 143, just east of Interstate 55, and outside the city limits, has video gaming and will be allowed to keep it under an agreement made last year. Niebur said he is not sure about Midwest’s restrictions though he acknowledged the three fraternal organizations have a 21 and older age limit for video gaming players.

Midwest seeks a $3.5 million expansion of its site here. Under the agreement, 3.05 acres would be annexed, immediately north of the current property. It defers annexation until 2040, or when the city approves video gaming within city limits, whichever occurs first.

In lieu of deferred annexation, the owner agrees to make annual payments instead of paying property and sales taxes that would be assessed and payable if the property were annexed. Annual payments of $15,000, or $1,250 per month, will begin when connection to the sanitary system is made and payments will be made monthly.

Berkbigler said the station’s redevelopment plan has not been approved, so nothing out there has changed.

“I don’t feel it’s our job to overturn what the residents voted on, like it or not,” Krause said. He suggested if local businesses really want video gaming, they should unite, market and advocate for it for themselves.

Niebur said he wished the council had never approved video gaming for anyone.

Reach reporter Charles Bolinger at 618-659-5735

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September 20, 2021 at 07:12PM

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