DeKALB – After deliberating for months, DeKalb city leaders voted this week to impose restrictions on video gambling in town.
Under an ordinance amended by the DeKalb City Council in a pair of 5-0 votes, restrictions will prohibit video gambling establishments in current and future restaurants, in gas stations, food and fuel establishments and liquor stores but not video gambling terminals in businesses holding a bar liquor license in town.
The City Council’s decision comes on the heels of delays in state license issuance to CJ’s Gaming Bar and years-long deferrals of Blue Ridge, LLC and its request for a license, which officials say complicates the city’s efforts to cap video gambling establishments at 10.
DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes said he believes the amended video gambling ordinance is a win-win for the city and the restriction deliberations weren’t rushed.
“This is a great compromise for, I think, everyone concerned that we are still allowing this to move forward,” Barnes said. “We’re just restricting a certain number of it. Future councils can always change it, absolutely. This is just what we’re deciding right now is what we believe is best for the city of DeKalb.”
Also under the amended ordinance, there are five businesses – Keg and Kernel by Tangled Roots Brewing Company, La Calle Bar and Music Venue, Lord Stanley’s and the Annex, Tapa La Luna and The Grove Tavern – that would become eligible for a video gambling license.
This is just what we’re deciding right now is what we believe is best for the city of DeKalb.”— DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes
DeKalb resident Duane Brown urged the Council to make the city more business-friendly.
“We don’t need unnecessary and restrictive regulations regarding the number of video gaming establishments in the city,” Brown said. “This is already a highly regulated industry by the state. Don’t put a cap on the number of establishments. This has cost and will cost prospective businesses to seek permits in other cities. Quite frankly, the free market does a much better job of determining a proper number than the City Council does.”
Discussion on this topic previously arose at the council’s meeting held earlier this month. During that meeting, the City Council extended a request made by Jeff Dobie of Blue Ridge LLC for a liquor and video gambling license in order to operate a proposed 6,090 square-foot building, across from Fatty’s Pub and Grill. Action taken by city leaders at the time provides that there will be 11 video gambling establishments allowed in town.
At a maximum, a licensed establishment is allowed to have up to six video gambling terminals for patrons to use, according to city documents.
In 2022, the city took in $391,000 in tax revenue from the terminals, the highest annual revenue to date, according to city records. License fees brought in $96,000 for the terminals in 2022.
Sixth Ward Alderman Mike Verbic questioned where all the money generated from the city’s video gambling would go.
“Will this be a part of a budget discussion then, or we will direct you to carve out a specific amount of future proceeds from gaming?” Verbic asked.
City Manager Bill Nicklas replied, saying revenue generated from area video gambling goes to city’s general fund. He expressed some hesitancy about setting aside funding to area social service agencies to address the issues with gambling.
“We don’t know yet about quality, what they’re bringing and if they’re successful and all that,” Nicklas said.
Verbic, who said he’s opposed to video gambling, said he supports the council’s decision but believes more action is needed for people susceptible to gambling addictions.
“I feel like we should be dedicating a portion of whether it’s monies we’ve already collected or future monies to address that issue specifically,” Verbic said. “We don’t provide counseling from the city of DeKalb but how can we be a better partner to help people that are taken by this gambling.”