The Bolingbrook village board voted unanimously Tuesday night to give the go-ahead for an off-track betting parlor to open at McQ's Sports Bar & Dome this spring.
The board approved ordinances for a special use permit for the OTB parlor and an amendment to the village's zoning code. The location still needs to acquire a license from the Illinois Racing Board before it can open.
McQ's Owner James McWethy said he hopes to open the facility this spring in time for the Kentucky Derby, though no official opening date has been set.
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McWethy acquired the previously-named Ditka Sports Dome last March and renovated the location. The OTB parlor will be a "perfect compliment" to his facility, he said.
He had small concerns about the dingy stereoyptes of OTB parlors, but those went away when he visited other locations in Illinois.
"The concerns people have are unfounded," McWethy said. "If those concers were valid, we would not be doing it...These are all very classy places -- very nice restaurants and sports bars...
I would not want to be involved in anything not first-class."
"A difficult decision"
Mayor Roger Claar said the vote was a difficult decision for him and the village trustees.
"Some people ask why we would want that kind of revenue," Claar said. "I don't see it that way. Fifteen years ago I may have."
Claar said he had been approached for two or three other off-track betting establishments in Bolingbrook over the last 15 to 20 years. He turned down those requests.
His opinion of OTB parlors changed when he visited an OTB in Oak Brook and found a "first-rate establishment."
"If we don't get revenue this way, the other way is to raise taxes," Claar said. "We need to find the resources we can."
Jeff Kras of Hawthorne Race Course, Inc., said an OTB parlor opened in Glendale Heights last spring has taken in $10 million in wagering and provided $200,000 in increased tax revenue, which is evenly split between Glendale Heights and its county.
Kras said the Bolingbrook location, having similar demographics, could expect similar results in its first year.
Expect an "upscale sports lounge"
Jeff Kras of Hawthorne Race Course, Inc., said the Hawthorne Race Course OTB's are "upscale sports lounges" with high-back leather chairs and hi-def TV's.
"We treat our operations as first-class operations," Kras said. If you haven't been to an OTB, you would be "pleasantly surprised" by what you saw, he said.
Kras said OTB demographics are middle-aged, middle class professionals. He said horse racing differs from casinos and other types of gambling because it's a "thinking man's sport."
McWethy agreed that the locations he saw had a "very nice clientele."
Patrons will need to be 21+ to enter the parlor. Like other places of gambling, gambling addiction services will be provided to those thought to be in need of them.
Kras said he would work with Bolingbrook police for security and traffic concerns, especially on big race days.
The parlor is expected to create four full-time jobs.