Ill. Gaming Board urges Quinn not to sign casino bill

July 7, 2011 5:03:31 PM PDT
Governor Pat Quinn has been asking for opinions on the new gambling expansion bill. The measure would make Illinois the biggest gambling center in the Midwest.

The measure would make Chicago the biggest gambling center in the Midwest. The governor is trying to decide if he will sign the bill. On Thursday, the Illinois Gaming Board said absolutely not.

Thursday may have been the make-or-break day for the recently-passed bill to expand gambling in Illinois. Gaming board members told Governor Pat Quinn Thursday afternoon that the bill would expose Illinois' casino industry to criminals.

Having chaired the Illinois Gaming Board for the six years, retired judge Aaron Jaffe is considered the state's leading expert on legalized gambling. He stands by his proclamation three weeks ago that the gambling expansion bill, passed by the general assembly in May, is garbage.

"As a matter of fact the more you read the bill, the more you realize how bad it is," he said.

Jaffe and members of his board met with the governor Thursday afternoon to urge Quinn not to sign the expansion bill. It would add four new casinos including one in the city of Chicago as well as slot machines at racetracks and at airports, effectively tripling the number of gaming positions in the state. Jaffe is concerned that law to keep criminals away cannot be enforced under the proposed bill.

"I do not believe it can be enforced properly as written at this time," said Jaffe.

Quinn -- who throughout his political career has been wary of gambling as a revenue source -- has called Jaffe's opinion "critical" to whether he decides to sign or veto the bill.

"Any time you talk about gambling, the first thing you should talk about is integrity and making sure the regulation is second to none," said Quinn.

Jaffe is concerned that unlike casino workers, under the pending bill employees at racetracks with slot machines would not have to be fingerprinted during their criminal background checks.

"So if they can't be taken at the racetrack, how are we going to vet people?" said Jaffe.

He says the expansion bill will allow thousands of new casino employees to get their licenses on a provisional basis before they are fully vetted.

"Anything can happen in a casino. Anything from petty crimes to money laundering or anything else. You're afraid then that some unsavory types could actually get their licenses before they could be pulled? Oh absolutely, absolutely," said Jaffe.

Before his meeting with Jaffe, the governor heard from gambling expansion supporters from downstate Danville where the pending bill would locate one of the four new Illinois casinos.

"I do think it's important to hear from everybody. I'm open minded to listening to people. I think that's a good way to get a good outcome," said Quinn.

The Senate president, John Cullerton, has not sent the bill to the governor's office yet so Quinn could have until the fall to hear both sides on the issue.

Quinn said he was unsure why the bill had not reached his desk yet. The conventional wisdom is that Senate President John Cullerton is afraid Quinn would veto the bill immediately.

If the bill goes back to the legislature for alterations, there is a chance that House Speaker Michael Madigan, who recused himself during the vote on this bill but is firmly opposed to gambling expansion, might kill it.

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