By Bob Balgemann

It came about after village staff was contacted by a charity-gaming operator about hosting a bingo-like raffle on an industrially zoned property in the village.

While researching the request, it was determined that there was nothing in the Village Code regulating where bingo, raffles and other games of chance should be located.

Further, the state Department of Revenue does license all bingo, pull-tabs and jar games, as well as other charitable games.

As a result, staff crafted a proposed text amendment that added “Bingo and Similar Games of Chance” as a use in the “Agricultural and Residential Land Use,” and in the “Commercial and Industrial Land Uses,” of the Machesney Park Zoning Code.

That meant such a use would be permitted in most zoning districts consistent with state regulations.

Staff gave that summary to the planning and zoning commission (P&Z) on Dec. 27, 2021, when the text amendment made its first stop in the approval process, on its way to the village board for final approval, which came Monday night.

P&Z in a 7-0 vote recommended approval of the text amendment and moved the proposal to the next meeting of the planning and economic development committee (PED).

PED, at its Jan. 3 meeting and also in a unanimous vote, recommended approval of the text amendment, which at that point was housed in Ordinance 8-22. Also Jan. 3, the committee recommended approval of Ordinance 9-22, which would make it an offense to operate bingo and similar games of chance, if they were not in compliance with the zoning regulations covered in Ordinance 8-22.

Both ordinances subsequently were approved by the village board, unanimously and without discussion, on first reading at its Jan. 18 meeting, and on second and final reading, 4-0 with one voting present and two absent, on Feb. 7. The ordinances were part of the consent agenda, which meant they were combined with other proposals and approved under one motion, with no discussion.

The P&Z meeting

There was some discussion at the P&Z meeting, where the proposed text amendment made its first stop Dec. 27, 2021.

Chairman Jay Alms asked if the village would charge a fee for anyone wanting to hold those kinds of games?

Manager Houston replied there would not be a fee, nor would there be an application.

But Village Attorney Tom Green added someone hosting such games would have to pay a fee to Boone County, and to the state.

He continued to say village staff was looking to another part of the code that would make it an offense to run games not consistent with the proposed village regulations.

Commissioner Dan Pfluger said his Boy Scout troop occasionally runs a raffle from a church in Rockford, to raise funds. He asked if that currently is not permitted in Machesney Park?

That would be allowed now, Houston answered, because the village code does not address this kind of use. And if they are good with the state, and good with the county, it would be fine.

Concerning the drafting of a text amendment, she explained that staff basically was asked, “Where can I run this bingo raffle game for profit, to make money for myself?” She added, “It clearly was not a proper type of game, but staff had no Code to fall back on, to make it clear that this is not allowed here.”

Pfluger also wondered if the text amendment would cost the village money for inspections, or anything else.

The only necessity is for it to be determined if those hosting the games are licensed by the state, she replied.

Commissioner Scott Heidemann asked if the presence of such games in Machesney Park would affect the charity nights at the Rockford Speedway? Houston answered that the speedway was in Loves Park, and that she did not know how the city regulated that kind of activity.

The PED meeting

There also was brief discussion at the PED meeting, on Ordinance 8-22, the text amendment, with committee Chairman and Trustee James Kidd asking, “If I’m at my house and having some of my buddies over and it’s New Year’s Eve and we decide to play poker, how would this (ordinance) affect the household on New Year’s Eve?”

Village Attorney Tom Green handled that one, answering, “Technically, poker games, going to somebody’s house and playing for money, technically, it’s not legal and our ordinance doesn’t affect that.”

There was more discussion for Ordinance 9-22 and it came after action on Ordinance 8-22.

Houston explained the purpose of that ordinance, saying, “This amendment simply adds that the non-conforming operation of bingo and similar games of chance, is a new article in Chapter 14 of the code.

“This chapter lists numerous offenses that would allow us to shut down the non-conforming games. Operators of the games could be subjected to fines; more timely than going through the process if it was only a violation in our zoning code.”

Chairman Kidd asked about how the fines would be handled for violating the code?

Attorney Green replied, “We intended to do it as we’ve always done, which is minimum $50, maximum $500, for each day the violation continues, as a separate offense.

“If it gets all the way to an administrative hearing, or farther, that’s someone who is refusing to comply. So, the village would be seeking a higher fine. Generally, if someone immediately complies, based on a letter of notice, here is no fine whatsoever.”

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