Belleville Debates Video Gambling

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

BELLEVILLE, IL. (KTVI) – The video gambling machines that sent a notorious Belleville area crime figure to prison in the 90’s could soon be “legal” in Belleville.   The debate drew a huge crowd to Belleville City Hall, Tuesday night.  If video gaming is approved, the City of Belleville would get a 5% share of the money from the bars and other participating businesses.

Mayor Mark Eckert said it could mean $300,000 or more for the city; enough to hire at least four more police officers.

Opponents pointed out gamblers would have to lose millions for the city to cash in.

‘I think it`s great.  Let them do it,’ said Bill Collins, a patron at Friday`s South, a bar down the street from City Hall.  ‘Give it to the small guys.  Let people have some fun.  Instead of going to the boat all the time, let them do it here.

‘Where` s the downside?’ said his brother, Jim, pointing out that the bar owners who overwhelmingly support legalization, would hardly take that stance against their own best interest.
Still, the downside seemed to opponents at a close to 2 hour public hearing before the Belleville City Council.

‘I`m not chicken to say I`m opposed to allowing gaming in Belleville,’ one resident told the council.
About 150 people packed the city council chambers.  Dozens more had to watch on TV in an overflow area nearby.

‘This will hurt local businesses.  It won`t help them. It won`t help families,’ another resident told the council.

But those business owners supported it; all on board from the neighborhood tavern to the landmark Fischer`s restaurant.

‘We`re all for it.  We are SO for it!’ Annette Fischer said.
‘Smithton, Freeburg, Fairview Heights, Shiloh, St. Clair County have all legalized it,’ said John Brisk, owner of Cutter`s and Tim & Joe`s.  (Customers) don`t come to our place if we don`t have it, they`re going to go there.’

‘What`s the difference?   These people will not be in my bar, that`s opposing us.  I guarantee you that,’ said Lonnie Casey, owner of Night Moves.

‘It`s an entertaining feature that is truly an elegant system to watch and enjoy,’ said David Talignani, a video gaming technician for area casinos.  ‘It`s better than doing a Lotto scratch off when you buy it at the liquor store.’

Opponents point to history in Belleville and beyond.  Notorious racketeer, Tom Venezia, was convicted in 1995 and went to federal prison for running an illegal video gambling ring at taverns in and around Belleville.

He died in an apparent murder-suicide in Belleville after his release in 2005.  Police said he shot and killed Jennifer Anderson, 21, who was living with him, then turned the gun on himself.
Anderson`s mother spoke against legalization at the public hearing.

‘I think it should be up to `we the people`, it should be on the ballot,’ another resident said.

‘They claimed riverboat gambling would fill East St. Louis City`s and schools` coffers, but they`ve only contributed to corruption.  They claimed allowing for adult entertainment promotes jobs in Washington Park but it has only led to ruined lives.  We don`t need gambling in Belleville.  We don`t want gambling in Belleville,’ resident Alex Enyard said.

After the meeting, Mayor Eckert said he wasn’t 100% ‘for’ or ‘against’ video gambling.  The council`s ordinance committee will meet next week to decide whether to send a proposal to the city council  or perhaps put the issue up for a vote of the people on the November ballot.

Follow me: on Twitter@andybankertv
On Facebook@andybankerfox2

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

About FOX 2 News

FOX 2 and KPLR 11 in St. Louis cover the news in Missouri and Illinois. There are over 68 hours of live news and local programming on-air each week. Our website and live video streams operate 24/7. Download our apps for alerts and follow us on social media for updates in your feed.

President Harry Truman said: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” That spirit is alive and well at Fox 2. Our teamwork is on display each and every day.

Our news slogan is: “Coverage You Can Count On.” We quite frankly are too busy to worry about who gets the credit. Our main concern is serving the viewer.

We go where the stories take us. Whether it be Washington, D.C when a Belleville man opened fire during a congressional baseball game practice or to Puerto Rico where local Ameren crews restored power after more than 5 months in the dark.

Coverage You Can Count On means “Waking up your Day” with our top-rated morning show. From 4:00 am-10:00 am we are leading the way with breaking news. But our early morning crew also knows how to have some fun! Our strong commitment to the communities we serve is highlighted with our Friday neighborhood shows.

Our investigative unit consists of three reporters. Elliott Davis focuses on government waste, Chris Hayes is our investigative reporter, and Mike Colombo is our consumer reporter. They work in unison with the news department by sharing resources and ideas.

We continue to cover breaking news aggressively and relied on our seasoned journalists to make a difference with the stories we covered. The shooting of Arnold Police Officer Ryan O’Connor is just one example of that. Jasmine Huda was the only reporter who had exclusive access to the O’Connor family during his amazing rehabilitation in Colorado.

Last, but certainly not least, FOX 2 and KPLR 11 are committed to covering local politics. We host debates among candidates and have the most extensive presidential election coverage. Our commitment to politics isn’t just during an election year. We produce two political shows that air every weekend.


Latest News

More News