Effingham County Board members are divided on whether a video gaming ordinance would be a good thing for unincorporated areas of the county.

Board member Larry Vahling said the county’s ability to tax video gaming machines could enhance the county’s revenue stream.

“I think it’s a good deal if the county can get revenue from it,” Vahling said.

But board member Mark Percival is skeptical about the value of video gaming in society.

“To me, we’d be promoting something that’s not ethical or moral,” Percival said. “It would be like legalizing prostitution.”

Board members addressed the video gaming issue at Monday’s Legislative Committee hearing. Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed a capital construction bill that includes a provision for video gambling, but board Chairwoman Carolyn Willenburg said it might take the state up to a year to implement the new law — which allows up to five video gambling machines at bars, liquor stores, clubs and truck stops.

Committee member Karen Luchtefeld said the county should delay any ordinance until officials hear how the state gaming commission will enforce the new law.

“There’s no need for us to do anything until the state makes a decision,” Luchtefeld said.

One group wants the county to outlaw video gambling within unincorporated areas. In an Aug. 5. letter to the board, Springfield-based Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems said the board should consider banning video gambling within unincorporated areas.

“We are fully aware of the harm that will come to your community if video poker machines are legalized,” said Executive Director Anita Bedell.

Bedell said those who already commit crimes or abuse substances are at greater risk to become pathological gamblers.

Also Monday, the committee recommended the appointment of Effingham resident David Campbell to the District D seat vacated by the July 27 death of Don Cunningham.

Campbell, who may best be known as the individual seeking to open a riverboat hotel, restaurant and conference center near St. Elmo, wasn’t at Monday’s meeting, but Willenburg said she and board Vice Chairman Bob Shields met with him recently.

“I urge you to get acquainted with him,” Willenburg told the other board members. “Bob and I had a nice visit.

“He seems like a nice guy,” added Shields. “He said he would look at each issue on its own merits.”

The committee also agreed to recommend Logan Mellendorf for the Lucas Township Drainage District Board and David McDevitt for the 708 Mental Health Board.

The appointments of all three men will be considered at Monday’s full board meeting.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 132 or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.

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