KANKAKEE – The brakes are applied when it comes to setting up other gaming cafes in Kankakee.
By a 4-1 vote, the Kankakee City Council’s Economic Development Committee instructed the city’s legal department to draft an order suspending the establishment of any other video game location for a period of six months while they’re planning a deep dive into what’s appropriate when it comes to locating all of the future video game locations.
This moratorium would not include bars, restaurants or truck stops, but rather places where the only business plan is gambling.
Currently, the city has four such locations: Shelby’s, 4 Meadowview Center; Station Street Gaming Cafe, 150 E. Station St .; Lacey’s Place, 503 RiverStone Parkway; and the newly established, but not yet operational, location at 1620 E. Maple St.
These companies dedicated to games are located in the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th districts of the city.
“It’s money, but is it good money?” Kankakee Mayor Chris Curtis said this week. “Our standards are to have a community that will thrive and grow.”
Whether more gaming-exclusive locations will help drive the city to this destination is a question many are starting to ask.
“We’re going to take a break from the game shows. We have to answer what is that number that balances our best growth for our community,” he said.
Alderman David Baron, D-2, who appeared to be leading the call for a moratorium among council members, noted that the city’s planning, economic development and mayor’s office responds to numerous requests every week for more games.
“We have to take a break,” he said. “I am not sold on gambling cafes as a viable thing for any community.”
One thing is certain: video games appear to be a growing industry. Regardless of the economy, the pandemic, or any other factor, video games seem to weather the storm.
The city’s budget this year provides for $ 540,000 to be collected through the city’s gambling tax. This represents tax revenue from both exclusive gaming locations and gaming centers within other businesses.
In the last fiscal year, the city raised $ 444,169 and that money was raised even though the gaming machines were shut down for four months by the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The three operating gambling cafes in Kankakee brought to the city budget in the first four months of the current budget year $ 44,360. Shelby’s alone brought in $ 19,415 in city coffers.
In total there are 41 locations in Kankakee that have video games and a total of 223 machines.
These figures would explain why companies ring the phones of town halls.
“I believe it can be described as a tax on the poor,” Baron said. “I believe that is what it is.”
He said the simple question is: Can Kankakee base his economic development on gambling?
“Is this how you generate economic investment? Asked the baron. “I cannot ignore the problematic consequences. Is this what we want in the community? How good is it and when does it become a problem?”
Baron conceded that some may view gambling halls as “just another business”.
“The time has come for a break,” he said. “Let’s take a close look at the data. Before we continue to grant licenses, let’s make sure they’re a good thing.”
The only member of the Economic Development Committee who voted against a moratorium was the alderman of the first district Cherry Malone-Marshall. She said that a location in the 1st arrondissement could help with economic development there.
She said every neighborhood should be allowed to have a game cafe.
Barbi Brewer-Watson, executive director of the Kankakee Community and Economic Development Agency, said a fundamental question was “are they really economic development?” “
“We don’t just want gaming cafes. We want other businesses,” she said.
At the same time, she noted, the city also does not want to refuse investments.
“We are just looking for some direction from the board,” she said.
Brewer-Watson said many communities struggle with the same problem.
“What is reasonable? she asked, adding that she hopes a market analysis can help provide the answer.
“My job is to present data so that we can make the best decision,” she said.