Buffalo Grove approves OTB after marathon meeting

 
 
  • Buffalo Grove Police Department Commander Steve Husak, foreground left, and Police Chief Steve Balinski speak on behalf of the police department regarding other off-track betting facilities in the state.

    Buffalo Grove Police Department Commander Steve Husak, foreground left, and Police Chief Steve Balinski speak on behalf of the police department regarding other off-track betting facilities in the state. Jason Chiou | Staff Photographer

  • 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.

    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

  • Charley Cohen, left, of unincorporated Deerfield, speaks with Buffalo Grove resident Ralph Markus about the off-track betting facility prior to the meeting.

    Charley Cohen, left, of unincorporated Deerfield, speaks with Buffalo Grove resident Ralph Markus about the off-track betting facility prior to the meeting. Jason Chiou | Staff Photographer

  • Buffalo Grove Police Chief Steve Balinski speaks addresses whether an off-track betting facility would pose any challenges to his department.

    Buffalo Grove Police Chief Steve Balinski speaks addresses whether an off-track betting facility would pose any challenges to his department. Jason Chiou | Staff Photographer

  • President/CEO Bob Bilocerkowycz of Inter-Track Partners speaks on behalf of the company about the off track betting facility on Monday night.

    President/CEO Bob Bilocerkowycz of Inter-Track Partners speaks on behalf of the company about the off track betting facility on Monday night. Jason Chiou | Staff Photographer

Published: 6/2/2009 12:05 AM | Updated: 6/2/2009 10:09 AM

It took more than six hours of discussion. But in the end, it wasn't even a photo finish.

At around 3 a.m. today, Buffalo Grove trustees voted 4-2 to allow off-track betting at Adam's Rib and Ale House.

Trustees Jeffrey Braiman, Jeffrey Berman, DeAnn Glover and Steven Trilling voted in favor, while Lisa Stone and Beverly Sussman - new board members elected in April - voted against the proposal.

Off-track betting attracted a big turnout for Monday night's Buffalo Grove village board meeting, with an impatient public finally allowed to speak - mostly against it - at 11:20 p.m.

Among the first residents to speak was Barnett Fagel, who carried a petition signed by other residents opposed to a proposed OTB at Adam's Rib and Ale House, which would be renamed Adam's Sports Bar & OTB.

"They do not want betting and bookies in Buffalo Grove," Fagel said.

Diane Garber insisted that the proposal be put on the ballot. "(Then) you can see one by one who is for it," she said.

But one supporter, Steven Russo, said he patronizes OTBs.

"The crowd here looks like the people who go to an OTB," Russo said.

More than 100 people filled the meeting room, and the village provided seating in the lower level of village hall for the overflow.

The first hours of testimony came from village officials and Melrose Park-based Inter-Track Partners LLC, which would develop and operate the OTB at 301 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Inter-Track Partners President and CEO Bob Bilocerkowycz said his firm's reputation is important. Inter-Track emphasizes a strict code of conduct, stressing proper attire and language, he said.

He said the clientele is generally middle-aged or older business and sales people with time on their hands and disposable income.

He said Inter-Track intends to serve an underserved betting market in Lake County. It would be a joint venture with Adam's Rib and Ale House, which would lease the space to Inter-Track.

He said the tax benefit to the village could be between $100,000 and $150,000 per year.

When board member Sussman asked if Inter-Track would want to locate in a community where it was not wanted, Bilocerkowycz said it would not. When she noted that it seemed Buffalo Grove residents did not seem to want it, he said, "I believe your 40,000-plus residents are not necessarily represented in this room tonight," prompting a strong reaction from the crowd.

In its information packet, Inter-Track officials said off-track betting has generated more than $61 million in tax revenues for local communities in the past five years. It also said a single OTB location can generate as many as 85 jobs.

The OTB would be open to the public at 11 a.m. daily and would close at 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and Friday, and 12:30 a.m. Saturday.

Buffalo Grove Police Chief Steve Balinski said his department had looked into law enforcement issues at 10 existing locations, most of them operated by Inter-Track Partners. He said relatively few calls were for serious crimes.

He added that the reputation of Inter-Track Partners was positive.

"In my professional opinion, it would not pose any significant challenges to the police department," he said.

Established in 1987, Inter-Track Partners owns and operates 15 OTBs, including Lucky Magee's in Niles and Bookie Magee's in Joliet. The Buffalo Grove plan commission in April recommended approving the Inter-Track OTB in its town.

Board member Lisa Stone, who has been leading the opposition to the OTB, said it was important to look at what impact OTBs had on such behavioral issues as suicide.

"We need to think about what it does to a family, to a person," Stone said.

The meeting promised to be a long one from the start, with Stone saying, "I'm willing to stay here till tomorrow morning."

Stone raised the question of possible gang and drug activity being aggravated by an OTB.

Balinski said the police chiefs he had spoken to said gang, drug and organized-crime activity was not an issue.

However, he said, "There is always a risk."

Cmdr. Steve Husak said site visits revealed nothing about the clientele that would be different from sports bars like Buffalo Grove's own Grillworks at eSkape.

Trustee Sussman raised the issue of Adam's Rib and Ale House's recent violation of the village's liquor code in serving alcohol to minors. Police said the incident occurred in February. The establishment was closed down for three nights in April.

But Trustee Glover said the village treats the issue of underage drinking seriously. She pointed out that once, "our own Village Grill was caught in a sting, and we had to pay the price."

Village President Elliott Hartstein said he as liquor commissioner made it clear if the pattern continued, Adam's Rib and Ale House would lose its liquor license.

Rabbi Marc Belgrad of Congregation Beth Am in Buffalo Grove also spoke against OTB. "This type of activity should have no place in our community," he said.

Dan Gelfond, of the Buffalo Grove Area Chamber of Commerce, said that if Buffalo Grove approved the OTB, it would be more like communities like Alton and Crestwood, rather than high-end communities like Highland Park and Northbrook. That, he said, would affect property values.