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Official: OTB will 'tarnish' Buffalo Grove
By Steve Zalusky | Daily Herald Staff

Some in opposition to the construction of an off-track betting facility displayed their dismay for the construction of the facility on Monday night at village hall in Buffalo Grove for city council meetings.

 

Jason Chiou | Staff Photographer

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Published: 6/2/2009 4:23 PM | Updated: 6/2/2009 10:17 PM

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Despite vocal opposition, the Buffalo Grove village board Tuesday morning voted 4-2 in favor of off-track betting at Adam's Rib and Ale House.

You could have flown from one coast to the other in the time it took the board to decide. For more than six hours, the board heard testimony from its police chief; representatives from Melrose Park-based Inter Track Partners LLC, which will be operating the OTB at 301 N. Milwaukee Ave; and members of the public.

Opponents cited fear of crime, gambling's impact on individuals and families, and fear of lowered property values, while proponents said fears were overblown based on the experience elsewhere and the OTB would bring in needed tax revenue at a time when the town is losing car dealers.

By 3 a.m., 40 of an initial 150 people were still in the board chambers.

Village Manager William Brimm said the village had received nearly 100 e-mails from residents, with seven out of eight of them opposed to the plan.

But Village President Elliott Hartstein said opponents are the ones who come to meetings and it was his impression that the community, rather than being staunchly against the proposal, was divided, an impression that was reinforced by talking to people at such community venues as Jewel and the baseball diamonds at Emmerich Park.

Hartstein said sending the matter to referendum would not have been more effective than his informal canvassing of more than 70 people on Saturday, given the small turnout for the municipal elections.

Beverly Sussman, who, along with Lisa Stone, voted against the measure, said there are other ways for the village to raise revenue that would equal the estimated $70,000-$150,000 in projected annual taxes from the OTB.

One way would be for the village to revive its vehicle sticker program. She said the village received more than $560,000 in revenue from the stickers. She noted that the village budget is around $60 million. What the village would receive from the OTB is one-quarter of 1 percent of that.

"We have such a wonderful village. And yet we want to tarnish it by having OTB in the village of Buffalo Grove," she said. "For one-quarter of 1 percent, we're willing to do that."

But Brimm said the sticker program, while a revenue generator, also cost the village heavily in staff time and was difficult to enforce.

In voting against the OTB, Stone said the board should not discount the 400 petition signatures of opponents in the community. Nor should it discount the resolution by neighboring Riverwoods urging Buffalo Grove to turn the OTB down, she said. She said nearly 100 percent of the people she talked to did not like the idea.

Hartstein responded that while he respects Riverwoods, "we don't need another community telling us what is best for Buffalo Grove."

Trustee Jeffrey Braiman said while he understands the position of people who are passionate about gambling, "gambling is here." He said the village has 18 to 20 lottery locations. "Kids can go in there any time without any supervision."

Braiman allowed that he was concerned by comments from a neighbor concerned about children walking past the OTB. "I have three children, and my wife is a teacher."

But he noted that the same area already contains bars and nightclubs, adding that the moral dilemma attached to gambling doesn't seem to apply to the liquor industry.

The plan initially generated no controversy and was approved by the plan commission in a 6-2 vote on April 15.

But that was before the recent village board election, when Stone and Sussman, who staunchly oppose the concept, were elected.

"We are very pleased with village's decision," Inter-Track Partners President and CEO Bob Bilocerkowycz said later Tuesday.

The Illinois Racing Board could give final approval to the facility when it meets next Tuesday, and it could be a few weeks or months before the OTB opens, Bilocerkowycz said. If approved, Buffalo Grove would join over 20 other Illinois communities that have off-track betting facilities.

The newly named Adam's Sports Bar and OTB would be the second off-track betting facility in Lake County. The other facility in Waukegan is operated by Trackside Illinois OTB, Inter-Track's competitor. Another OTB, Lucky D's Sports Bar and OTB in Wauconda, closed last November.

In May, the board authorized Inter-Track Partners to open an OTB at The Saddle Room, 5295 Prairie Stone Parkway in Hoffman Estates. There's one at Arlington Park and one opened in 2007 in Elk Grove Village.

• Daily Herald staff writer Christopher Placek contributed to this report.

Protests: OTB still needs Illinois Racing Board's approval