Amended Gaming Ordinance Triggers Letters About License Renewal
Village Clerk/Treasurer Veronica Rudychev said letters about the illegality of games of chance will be sent to all business owners who hold Class "A" and Class "B" licenses. The village is also going to make sure the Department of Revenue and the Departme
Do you own a gas station or conveniece store with a Class "A" license and host gambling machines? In order to have that license renewed, you'll have to get rid of the machines, says Mount Pleasant Clerk/Treasurer Veronica Rudychev.
The village Finance/Legal/License committee voted unanimously Wednesday to move to the Village Board amended ordinances that put the village into compliance with the state. Defined as games of chance under state statute, the machines are illegal.
"We are out of compliance with the state statutes," Rudychev told the committee during the meeting.
By making the corrections now, Rudychev has plenty of time to contact business owners about the change before their licenses expire on May 31.
Business owners with a Class "A" license who have the machines can be charged by the local police department with a Class I Felony. Officers also have authority to seize the games.
State statute says five or fewer is still illegal but only subject to a $500 fine per machine and only through the Department of Revenue. More than five machines puts these businesses in the same boat as those with a Class "A", facing a felony charge and loss of the machines under the jurisdiction of the local police agency.
John Verney, one of the owners of Passehls BP Service on Taylor Avenue, says the application of the law isn't fair. He had video gambling machines in the store of his business, but after a spot check by a special agent with the Department of Justice, he had the games removed. As a result, he's losing inside store sales, considered by many to be the backbone of gas station revenues.
"I have customers come to get work done on their cars, and they would stay to play the games," he said. "That means they'd also probably buy a soda or candy or some chips. Now, they leave, and how is that fair? They can go across the street to the bar and play, but they can't play here? It's the same thing."
Verney said he cut his hours of operation, closing earlier most days and not opening at all on Sundays.
"No one will come in and I can't afford to pay employees to be at work if we don't have customers coming through the door," he added.
Owners of Class "B" establishments — typically a tavern or restaurant — will also get a letter, but which one depends on how many gaming machines they have.
Class "B" operations with five or fewer machines will get a letter reminding them that the games are illegal but as long as the establishment meets the statutory requirements for its license, it will be renewed. Businesses with more than five games will not have their licenses renewed until they remove enough games to have fewer than five.
"It's still illegal and we're telling them that we're not condoning the possession of the games," Rudychev said.
Mount Pleasant Police have a checklist they will use when they go to the businesses as part of the process of license renewal. Any establishment not in compliance with the statutes will generate a report.
Copies of the letters from Rudychev's office, plus any applicable police reports, will also be forwarded to both the DOR and the DOJ.