Ill. Gaming Board frustrated with new law

August 25, 2009 3:34:14 PM PDT
The chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board says his commission will not be rushed into starting video gaming throughout the state.The board is questioning how video gambling machines will be run in bars and taverns in Illinois and how it will be regulated.

It comes as a number of communities are choosing not to allow video gaming.

Video gaming is part of the state's new capital plan passed in May and signed by the governor last month.

It's the gaming board's responsibility to make the rules and get it going but, as the board chairman said on Tuesday afternoon, it isn't the same as opening a new casino which takes a lot of time and legwork. It's like starting a whole gaming industry, and how do you do that without money, board members ask.

"This board has cleaned up a lot of messes. We don't intend to make any messes," said Aaron Jaffe, Illinois Gaming Board chairman.

The chairman of the gaming board expressed both resolve and frustration over the state's new video gaming law, a move that could put as many as 45,000 video poker machines in bars, truck stops and fraternal establishments across the state.

The General Assembly passed the law in May, and turned it over to the gaming board to make the rules, but it gave the board no new money to oversee what will be a monumental undertaking.

"Any sane person realizes that this is a disaster waiting to happen for our state," said Rev. Eugene Winkler, Illinois Gaming Board member.

The state's nine casinos have set hours, surveillance, security. That's impossible to apply, gaming board members say, to video gaming in 15,000 bars. They say they'll need a master computer to govern the system, and at least 75 staffers to license and police it, but there's no money for any of that.

"This law wasn't thought out, that it was passed in the dark of night without any discussions or hearings," said Robert Schillerstrom, DuPage County Board president.

Opponents of the video poker plan on Tuesday afternoon said its revenue projections are fantasy. It will invite more crime. Increase gambling addition.

"I think it's important to note that nine states have allowed video gaming. Four have gone on to repeal it," said Bridget Gainer, Cook County commissioner.

DuPage County has already voted to ban video gaming in its unincorporated areas. Kane, and Will are considering. Cook will be asked to do the same, as a number of communities taking a second look grows.

Supporters of video gaming say it's been in bars forever. It ought to be regulated. The law has safeguards.

"What are people afraid of? Citizens are going to learn. This isn't such a bad thing. Let's go ahead and do this," said Zack Stamp, Illinois Coin Machine Operators.

If video gaming does go forward, the gaming board chairman made clear this afternoon it will not be rushed.

"We will do it, but at our own pace when we are funded and when we have the people to do it," said Jaffe.

That's a strong message from a board chairman who says he's disappointed in the general assembly. Either come up with the money so we can hire the people to make this happen, or don't expect - even the rules - anytime soon.

If video gaming does happen, it may be a year away, perhaps more.

Opponents want legislators to re-think the whole thing in the fall veto session.


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