Niles seeing smaller purse from OTB
Jackie Settepani gets programs ready for customers at Lucky Magee's off-track betting parlor in Niles on Dec. 10. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 18, 2013 1:16AM
NILES — It may be due to the economy or the fact that local gambling competition has increased, but revenue the village of Niles has received from Lucky Magee’s off-track betting facility has been steadily declining over the last four years.
In fiscal year 2007, the Niles OTB site brought in $475,936 to the village and the amount grew to $479,981 in 2008. The decline started during fiscal year 2009 when $378,223 in village revenue was collected, followed by $327,014 in revenue in 2010, $278,067 in 2011, and $260,974 in 2012.
For fiscal year 2013, it is expected that the OTB will generate $266,723.
“Betting dollars have been down from when we opened it,” acknowledged Randy Olech, chief operating of Illinois OTB.
Lucky Magee’s opened in April of 2006 at the former Circuit City site at 9215 N. Greenwood Ave., right next to Golf Mill Shopping Center.
Olech believes the drop in revenue is partly due to the economy and partly due to more competition for gaming dollars, like the 2011 opening of Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.
Olech said gambling proceeds are lower in Niles than at some of the other OTB locations.
“We don’t have supplemental income from slot machines,” he added. “We’ve been pushing for that.”
Despite the decrease in revenue, however, village officials say the OTB is still one of the top generators of revenue for the village.
“The OTB is the only establishment that we collect the gaming tax from,“ explained Village of Niles Finance Director Scot Neukirch. “But if you were to compare the revenue we receive in gaming tax to what we receive in sales tax from other businesses, the OTB would be in the top 20 to 25 revenue generators in the village based on our calendar 2011 sales-tax numbers.”
The controversial OTB was rejected by neighboring Morton Grove before operators approached Niles.
In the fall of 2005, Rosemary Palicki, now a Niles trustee, and Library Trustee Morgan Dubiel worked on organizing a referendum asking voters if they thought an OTB should be allowed in Niles.
“The issue was never about whether or not there should be gambling in Niles,” said Palicki. “It was about the fact that this was going to be a significant change in Niles and we felt that residents should have the opportunity to vote on whether or not they wanted that change.”
Palicki said that a big obstacle took place when the village refused to bring the pair’s petitions to the Clerk of Cook County for placement on the ballot.
“This resulted in our suing the village and winning,” said Palicki.
She added that by the time the election was held, the OTB was already a sure thing. The majority of voters supported the OTB at the polls as well.
“My objection was 100 percent to the method by which it was brought about,” said Dubiel. “It deserved to have a debate.”
Dubiel did say that he does not feel that gambling is healthy for families.
“My understanding is it hasn’t caused any local problems that have gone public, but often gambling causes private problems,” said.
Crime has not been an issue at Lucky Magee’s, according to Niles Police Chief Dean Strzelecki.
“There’s very minimal activity there at all,” said Strzelecki. “It’s also a bar and we don’t get any alcohol-related problems. We go there less than when it was retail there.”
Lucky Magee’s features a restaurant, sports lounge and more than 200 televisions to watch horse races and other sporting events.
“It’s been a good location,” Olech said. “It’s been a good experience.”