Local governments move to ban video poker

August 11, 2009 3:02:20 PM PDT
Opposition to video poker machines is growing in Illinois. The games were legalized in the state to help pay for public works projects. But, Tuesday, video poker was banned in parts of DuPage County. Here's the dilemma: If enough local governments exercise their option to ban video poker in their jurisdictions, will there be enough place left in Illinois, where legalized machines can operate, to provide all the money the state says it needs to build roads, bridges and schools? Tuesday, the DuPage County Board said no to expanded gambling in its unincorporated areas.

At first, the board held a hearing, during which the testimony was overwhelmingly opposed to video poker machines.

"I'm against the expansion of gambling, period," said Richard Major, anti-gambling activist.

"Entire families will be left penniless because mom and dad will feed their whole paychecks," said John Pastouvic, Chicago Crime Commission.

"In South Carolina, 20 percent of people who played these gambling machines became addicted," said Anita Bedell, anti-gambling activist.

Then, the 15 members voted unanimously to ban the machines from unincorporated DuPage County. Board President Robert Schillerstrom, who is also a Republican candidate for governor, wants municipal governments within the county to follow suit... hoped Tuesday's vote sends a message to Springfield.

"It obviously was a quick fix. Springfield is famous for quick fixes, and as we all know, quick fixes don't work," said Robert Schillerstrom, DuPage County president.

Last month, Governor Pat Quinn signed a $31 billion public works jobs bill. The measure is financed in part by video poker machines. Over 40,000 could be licensed in willing bars, restaurants and social clubs throughout the state, generating as much as $300 million a year.

"That's why we wanted hearings. We could bring in our experts to talk about states where this has worked and worked very well," said Zack Stamps, Coin Machine Operators Association.

The governor says he is not concerned about the potential loss of revenue for the public works program if the state's second largest county opts out entirely.

"If every single local government in Illinois decides they don't want video gaming, we won't have much revenue and we'll have to deal with that when it happens," said Gov. Pat Quinn, (D) Illinois.

Back in Wheaton, a Democratic Cook County commissioner joined the DuPage Republicans to announce what could only be bad news for supporters of the public works bill in its current form.

"We'll be introducing a similar ordinance in Cook County during our September meeting, and I think you'll see activity like this around the state," said Bridget Gainer, Cook County commissioner.

Gainer and the DuPage County Board members ABC7 talked to Tuesday want the state legislature during the fall veto session to remove video poker as part of the plan to retire the bonds issued to pay for the public works program.

The governor, who historically has opposed the expansion of gambling, said such drastic action is not necessary. He wants to wait and see just how many local governments do opt out of video poker.


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