Bloomington OKs Gambling Expansion, Sale To Boys & Girls Club | WGLT

Bloomington OKs Gambling Expansion, Sale To Boys & Girls Club

Aug 26, 2019

Bloomington plans to start taking applications for video gambling licenses in mid-September, after agreeing to lift a moratorium that was intended to curtail an explosion of gambling in the city.

The City Council voted 8-1 Monday to allow for eight additional licenses in addition to the 52 to the city has already granted.

The council also approved selling 3.4 acres at Sunnyside Park to the Boys & Girls Clubs for $1 and OK'd a pay raise for City Manager Tim Gleason.

While the council’s vote to lift the gambling moratorium was near unanimous, the decision was more narrow to limit the number of video terminals to large truck stops to five, the same as each other establishment. That amendment passed in a 5-4 vote. The city originally proposed up to 10 for its two large truck stops, Pilot Travel Center and TA Travel Center.

Peter Pontius with B&B Amusement of Illinois said Bloomington will lose tax revenue by not allowing large truck stops the maximum number of terminals the state of Illinois allows.
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT

Pete Pontius, director of loss prevention compliance for Bloomington-based B&B Amusement of Illinois, which provides gaming terminals to Pilot, told the council the city was leaving thousands of dollars on the table by passing on the additional terminals and encouraging truckers to go elsewhere.

“These are all transient people passing through that the City of Bloomington will be passing on that revenue and allowing it to go down the road to truck stops that are outside the city limits; McLean, Lincoln, Maroa, Chenoa, Decatur, Farmer City, LeRoy, the list goes on,” Pontius said.

Council member Jamie Mathy said if that turns out to be true, the city could allow for additional terminals later.

“But if we allow (more terminals) now, I don’t think there’s really a good mechanism where we can roll this back and say, ‘No, we allowed you to spend a whole bunch of money to make changes to your facility to allow for the extra machines at your facility, take all that out now, I’m sorry,’” Mathy said. He added he’s heard concerns that allowing 10 terminals at large truck stops will hurt the smaller establishments.

Under the ordinance, large truck stops must by $1,500 to the city per terminal. Other businesses pay $500, while veteran and fraternal organizations would pay $250.

Council member Julie Emig said she supported allowing additional terminals at large truck stops, noting the state of Illinois considers them to be a “different beast” because it allows cities to permit up to 10 terminals at those locations.

“The equity issue is applied given there’s already such a distinction,” Emig said.

Council member Jenn Carrillo cast the only "no" vote on lifting the moratorium. 

“I do not see enough of the things that were important to me in this proposal for me to be supportive of it,” Carrillo said.

Carrillo joined the council by phone for the meeting due to a work commitment and was unavailable for comment after the meeting.

The city plans to begin accepting license applications on Sept. 16 at city hall. City Attorney Jeff Jurgens said applications will be accepted first-come first served.

Boys & Girls Club

The city’s long-awaited sale of land at Sunnyside Park will lay the groundwork for a private fundraising campaign to build a new facility. The Boys & Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal plans to raise $12 million to $15 million to build a new 45,000-square-foot clubhouse to replace its current facility nearby.

“We are excited about the opportunity, not only for the Sunnyside neighborhood community, but Bloomington and Normal combined,” club CEO Tony Morstatter said. “We know there’s more kids in our community that need a safe place to be after school. There’s families that need to know their kids are safe after school and that’s what we are here for.”

Morestatter added the club already has a waiting list for its afterschool program and had a waiting list for much of last school year. 

The Boys & Girls Club agreed to make improvements to the park, including providing stormwater detention.

Council member Donna Boelen praised the deal as good for both parties.

“If all of this falls through, which I hope it does not, it goes back to the city,” Boelen said. “I think it’s a win, win and anybody that complains, they can take it up with me.”

Gleason Raise

Bloomington City Manager Tim Gleason received the highest ranking in a city job performance review.
Credit City of Bloomington

The council unanimously approved a 3.5% pay raise for City Manager Tim Gleason. The new contract also gives him an additional fifth week of vacation.

The council OK'd the new deal for Gleason after giving him the highest ranking possible following his first-year job review.

Gleason’s salary increases to $191,475 retroactive to his one-year anniversary of July 23.

“The number gets thrown around every year how the governor of Illinois makes less money than the city manager, I don’t think the governor of Illinois does one-quarter of the work that you do,” Council member Scott Black quipped to Gleason.

Mayor Tari Renner said Gleason has been a “uniting force” for the city council.

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