Liquor law change aimed at video gambling in Morton Grove
Bringer Inn customer Tom English and bartender Lisa Berletich demonstrate playing the bar's new electronic gaming machines. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 4, 2012 12:34PM
MORTON GROVE — In its long history in Morton Grove — it’s located in one of the oldest commercial buildings in the village — the Bringer Inn has rarely had the attention that has been focused on it in the past few weeks.
The local watering hole is one of two places where the Illinois Gaming Board is testing video-gaming machines and it was the first to have its machines online.
The owners, Mike Cummings and Tom English, applied to the state just like a lot of other bars and restaurants in Illinois.
“We just got lucky,” Cummings said. “They liked the location and liked the people here.”
While being chosen to test out the machines was a victory for the Bringer Inn – English and Cummings say it has improved business overall – it also forced the village to amend its liquor ordinance, reducing the number of licenses.
Corporation Counsel Terry Liston said the changes in the ordinance were made with the video-gaming machines in mind.
The new state law allows video-gambling machines in some businesses that serve liquor and the gaming license is tied to the liquor license.
“This is new and we want to watch it closely,” Liston said. “It’s better to be cautious.”
The measure approved by the village board changed the maximum number of licenses that can be issued, created a new BYOB license for restaurants and incorporated state language governing the newly allowed video-gaming terminals.
In Morton Grove they are allowed in establishments that hold Class A, Class B or Class C liquor licenses.
The A license allows the sale of alcoholic beverages for both on-premises consumption and sales of packaged liquor. The board reduced the maximum number from 15 to eight. Liston said five businesses now hold A licenses.
The Class B license allows the sale of beer and wine on premises. The board reduced the maximum number from 15 to eight, with five now issued.
Class C licenses are for private clubs only. The board reduced the maximum number from four to two and they now are held only by American Legion Post 134 and the Moose Family Center.
The amended ordinance also created a new BYOB license that allows diners at restaurants to bring their own wine. Trustee Maria Toth, who introduced the measure, said a restaurant diner is allowed to consume a maximum of 48 ounces of wine.
The measure allows the restaurant to provide glassware, ice and cork service.
Finally, the ordinance limits the number of gaming machines in a business to five and requires that they not be visible from the street. In addition, no one younger than 21 is allowed to use them.
The five machines at Bringer Inn are in a closed off area where there used to be a pool table. Anyone younger than 21 is not allowed in the room with the machines, even if they are with a parent, Cummings said.
“A couple of people said they miss the pool table, but it’s not coming back,” Cumming said.
The machines were installed Sept. 7 and underwent a quiet test before their existence was publicized, about a week later.
Lynne Morris, CEO of Morris Gaming, the Skokie-based company that owns and maintains the machines at Bringer Inn, said her firm has installed them at five locations, but only the ones in Morton Grove are “live,” turned on and connected with a Gaming Commission computer.
That computer, Cumming said, is in control of the machines at Bringer Inn, turning them on and off according to the hours the place is open, tracking bets, payoffs and pretty much everything else associated with the machines.
English said he and Cummings basically are responsible for paying out winnings that players receive on a token.
“The gaming board turns it on and off. That’s kind off neat. It takes the onus off of the owners,” Cummings said.
English added: “It’s a great source of revenue for the bar. It’s something needed. We’ve had people come in we’ve never seen before.”
Morton Grove Police Chief Mark Erickson said businesses with the machines are required to video-record their use so that police can view the recordings to check on the operation.
Erickson said he does not anticipate any problems created by the gambling terminals, particularly with only five allowed in a business.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We really don’t anticipate any problems. This should go very smoothly.”
At Bringer Inn the owners have installed a sign in the room with the gaming machines warning patrons they are being recorded. It’s one of the security measures needed with the machines in place, Cummings said.
Liston said the board decided to reduce the number of licenses in part to see how the new machines work out and because all of the licenses were not being used anyway.
Only Trustee Larry Gomberg voted against the amended ordinance, contending that reducing the number of licenses available is bad for local businesses.
But his motion to change the ordinance to keep the original number of licenses failed to receive a second.
Liston said thee are still liquor licenses available to applicants in the village, but with fewer of them it will be easier to evaluate the use of the video-gambling machines. If more licenses are needed, she noted, the board and change the ordinance again.
“This is new. It could be there are no problems with it at all,” she said. “We still have all of these licenses available.”