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Villa Park puts money on off-track facility
By Kathryn Grondin | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 2/26/2008 12:27 AM

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Villa Park leaders made it official Monday that they believe an off-track betting parlor is a winning wager.

The board voted unanimously in favor of Arlington Park's request for a 10,000-square-foot combination betting parlor and Italian restaurant along North Avenue. Trustee Richard Illian was absent.

"It always come down to what is basically best for Villa Park and all its residents," President Joyce Stupegia said. "We need this to survive and to thrive."

Trustees agreed, saying they expected the facility would bring more development to the long-struggling North Park Mall.

"My number one goal is creating a viable North Avenue," Trustee Tom Cullerton said. "This is a spark. This is a start. We can create revenues with this."

Adds Trustee Al Bulthius: "We need all the dollars we can get. ... It all boils down to personal choice. Everyone has to make their own personal choice. I'm not comfortable telling the residents they can't gamble."

The vote followed a mix of comments by residents.

"The ticket to success in life is not a betting ticket," the Rev. Stephen Swanson said. "The ticket to success is hard work. This is unfair (taxation). It collects taxes from the weak ... the pathological gambler."

Others disagreed.

"To be fair, you'd have to consider prohibiting the sale of liquor for those addicted to liquor. You'd have to consider prohibiting the sale of cigarettes for those addicted to nicotine," resident Greg Hassler said. "This is a good thing. This town has languished for years. You have to take that step forward."

About half the facility would be devoted to a Salerno Pincente Ristorante, with the remainder housing the off-track betting parlor affiliated with the Arlington Heights racetrack. The wagering portion would be separated from the restaurant and monitored so that only individuals 18 and older can enter.

It is expected to generate $100,000 in betting profits annually for the village and provide 30 to 50 jobs for area residents.

Opponents say the race isn't over.

"I'm not giving up," said gambling opponent Kathy Gilroy, who aims to lobby the Illinois Racing Board. "They say it's economic development. It's economic disaster."

The state agency still must approve a permit for the off-track betting parlor. If it does so, the facility could open by the end of the year, Arlington Park officials say.