Ill. Gaming Board calls for more funding

October 12, 2009 3:29:45 PM PDT
The head of the Illinois Gaming Board says it doesn't have the money to oversee legalized video gaming throughout the state. Lawmakers could make that funding available when they go back to work in Springfield this week. But with several counties opting out of legalized video gaming, will it bring in the revenue the state is counting on?

The gaming board was given a mission, but no money to make it happen. When legislators return to Springfield this week they'll begin to discuss how they might fix that, but finding a lot of money faces some tough odds for a plan that has stirred no small measure of controversy.

"This is a whole new industry," said Aaron Jaffe, gaming board chairman.

The gaming board polices the state's nine casinos and their employees. Putting 45,000 video gaming machines in bars and fraternal organizations across the state is a much different animal. It means rule-making and licensing thousands of people, the machine makers, distributors, operators, bar owners - thousands of people.

The gaming board chairman says to do it right, the board staff may have to at least double in size, and to date, the General Assembly has given the gaming board zero money to build the plan for video gaming.

"It's a high level of frustration. I wish before they'd pass it, they understood what they were giving us," said Jaffe.

"The biggest flaw is we didn't give them enough funds to do their work," said State Rep. Lou Lang, (D) Skokie.

State Rep Lou Lang is a strong proponent of video gaming as a cornerstone of the state's $30 billion capital program. When legislators return to Springfield this week, Lang says there'll be efforts to find the money the gaming board says it needs.

Lang calls building opposition to video gaming political and hypocritical given that machines have long been illegal money-makers.

Even if the General Assembly can find the money, and the gaming board constructs solid rules, video gaming is quite a ways off.

"I would say a year would be optimistic," said Lang. "We'll do what they want us to do, but they have to understand, we'll do it right."

A couple dozen communities, as well as the Cook and DuPage County boards have opted out of video gaming. Others are considering the same. Lang says, to be sure, they have that right, but he's going to advocate that if governmental units are going to drop out, then there should be a deadline date for making that decision, and those who make that choice don't get to fully share in the capital program.


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