FULTON, Ill. — The Fulton City Council is debating whether it will issue a liquor license to allow a second gaming den to set up in the city.
The discussion surfaced at a recent City Council meeting as the result of local businesswoman Kathy Kingery’s request for a liquor license. Kingery wants to open a gaming parlor at the Fulton Crossing on Illinois 84 near its intersection with Illinois 136 on the east side of the city. City Administrator Randy Boonstra said Kingery is proposing a gaming den, which requires her to obtain a liquor license to get a video gaming license. Boonstra said Kingery is not planning to sell food at the proposed gaming den but will allow delivery to the business.
“As part of this she will have to invest quite a bit of money to build out the south part of that building to prepare it for her business, and she’s ready to invest in that,” Boonstra said. ” And (building owner) Mr. (Dan) Dolan is ready to allow her to have a lease on that building.”
Boonstra added that the city is unsure if the state of Illinois is going to change its rules to allow an additional five machines per site. The state currently allows five terminals. Boonstra said from what the city understands, the state is looking at potentially allowing for the addition of two or three terminals at businesses already open. Boonstra said Kingery’s plan is to start with five terminals and see how the business goes. Boonstra added the city has received additional requests for gaming dens.
Alderwoman Barb Mask said when Mayor Mike Ottens first became mayor in 2017, the city had a gaming den conversation, citing a request they had at that time. She said she thought at that time the city decided “we really had enough.” She referenced the city’s vote last month to approve an additional classification for gaming at restaurants if they meet certain stipulations.
“It’s lucrative for the owner and it’s lucrative for the city and it’s really lucrative for the state of Illinois,” Mask said. “So I guess, collectively, I got the feeling we changed our mind last month that it’s OK to have more.”
Ottens said his interpretation was the council collectively said it would create another restaurant license if another full-service restaurant came to Fulton. Ottens recommended if the council members elect to open gaming dens they do not limit it to just this request. Ottens added he personally is against the city implementing gaming dens.
“If the council wants to say do it then I’m gonna say as liquor commissioner don’t stop at one,” Ottens said. “Let’s have it at Fulton Oil, down here, get Mr. Wilson back in play. We’ll have four or five or six or seven gaming dens in town. And when we try to be a tourist community and to come into town the first thing people are going to see is gaming den, gaming den, gaming den, gaming den, gaming den. And we can count our tax revenues and say, boy, that’s worth the $30,000 a year. That’s my position.”
Alderman Mike Van Zuiden viewed the Class C liquor license for the restaurant approved last month as one more way the city could help a restaurant be successful.
“I would like to have more restaurants come to town and they don’t all have to have gaming machines necessarily,” Van Zuiden said. “But I think it’s something, I’m hoping something, that’s going to help the restaurant downtown get its legs under it.”
Ottens said he would exercise the power to veto if the City Council elects to only do one liquor license for a gaming den.
“If we’re going to go down this path then let’s shake off the image and just open it up because… when we’re granting gaming den licenses, we’re picking a winner or a loser. And if we don’t have the ability to say that then you just open it up, open it up and we can have 10 of them in town. And they can fight it out. And we can count our tax sales receipts and we can get the social ills that come with that.”
Boonstra requested the council move the item to a vote at the next council meeting. He believes the city owes it to Kingery, a local business person, to have a vote.
“I understand your discussion but it’s been kind of frustrating to her and for Dan Dolan for us to not actually take a vote on this particular request,” Boonstra said.
The council will consider Kingery’s request at its January meeting.