Chicago Suburb Takes Action to Preclude OTB Parlors

Morton Grove, Illinois, a Chicago suburb once considered as the site of an off-track betting parlor, has modified its zoning laws to preclude any future incursions by wagering interests.

The village board voted 4-3 this week. with Mayor Richard Krier casting the deciding vote, to require any future Morton Grove OTB to obtain a formal variance from zoning requirements. Krier had led the opposition to an Intertrack Partners OTB proposed last winter for a converted store site. The OTB legislation became a hot local political issue during the spring.

However, contract talks for the Morton Grove site broke down earlier and Intertrack Partners now is eyeing nearby communities for a site for the facility.

State racing officials said the Morton Grove action is the first of its kind in Illinois. Many other communities have accepted OTBs because they generate revenue for local governments which host them.

In an unrelated political maneuver, the Illinois Gaming Board, acting at the direction of a Cook County judge, Wednesday renewed the license of Emerald Casino -- the almost legendary but long-unused 10th Illinois riverboat casino, whose revenue is supposed to be shared with horse racing interests. However, to prevent Emerald from immediately transferring the license to a proposed new casino site in Rosemont, the IGB made the renewal effective in 1999, meaning it already has expired.

Several courts, the Illinois Attorney General and the governor's office are involved in various aspects of the ongoing Emerald dispute.