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Aldermen vote 8-5 against video gambling ban
Posted By Staff On January 27, 2010 @ 6:00 am In News | 2 Comments
By Stuart R. Wahlin
With far less debate than during its Jan. 19 meeting, the Rockford City Council voted 8-5 Jan. 25 to take no action on a proposal by which the city would have said “no thanks” to video gambling.
Video gambling revenues are expected to account for 25-30 percent of the state’s $31 billion capital bill for roads and other infrastructure. With $400 million worth of projects for Winnebago County at stake, most aldermen didn’t want to see the capital program shortchanged.
Council chambers were filled to capacity, but gambling opponents were outnumbered by the strong building trade presence urging aldermen not to opt out of video gambling.
Brad Long, president of the Northwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council, argued: “During this unprecedented economic downturn, the building trades have been hit hard. We’re approaching 35 percent unemployment. That’s over 5,000 families that are struggling right now.”
Ald. Lenny Jacobson (D-6) urged colleagues to embrace video gambling as a means to create an estimated 439,000 jobs in Illinois.
“They don’t want to be on unemployment,” Jacobson said of the union members in attendance. “They want their checks to support our community, to pay their taxes. We need to put these folks back to work.”
Should the capital plan come up short, Jacobson suggested that cuts be made from the wards of aldermen who vote in favor of the ban.
Repeating what has become a controversial statement he made Jan. 19, Jacobson added, “I certainly am a little bit fearful when I know that there’s a bill down in Springfield that would say those who opt out will not be able to be part of the revenue that’s generated.”
Jacobson’s quote from the Jan. 19 meeting in this publication’s online edition sparked anger from gambling opponents who argue no such bill exists.
“Scare tactics are being used to try to keep communities from opting out now,” Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems (ILCAAAP) Executive Director Anita Bedell told The Rock River Times.
Following Jacobson’s comment Jan. 19, Bedell said she contacted the office of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D), but that Sean Vinck, Quinn’s chief legislative counsel, knew nothing about any such proposed legislation.
Doubting the likelihood of any such bill, she added, “The governor’s also made statements that if so many communities vote out, they’ll have to find another means of funding the construction projects.”
After having referenced the alleged bill again during the Jan. 25 council meeting, Jacobson was unable to provide a bill number or a sponsor to this publication. He suggested contacting the offices of state Sen. Dave Syverson (R-34) or state Rep. Chuck Jefferson (D-67).
After being informed Sen. Syverson’s office had no knowledge of any proposed bill that would bar dollars from going to municipalities that opt out of video gambling, Jacobson conceded it’s possible the measure is still being drafted and had not yet been introduced.
Rep. Jefferson’s office similarly indicated that, although such a measure has been rumored, none has been introduced.
Ald. Pat Curran (R-2), who first proposed that Rockford opt out of video gambling, scoffed at the argument that people are already receiving payouts for gambling on the “entertainment-only” machines.
“That’s illegal,” he asserted. Refuting the argument video gambling should be legalized just because people are doing it anyway, Curran said the same logic would imply, “We might as well legalize heroin, too.”
Curran and Bedell have both argued the state appears to lack the resources to effectively monitor and regulate the machines.
Ald. Carl Wasco (D-4), however, argued it is incumbent upon the state to give cities the tools needed to enforce related laws. Because there is no deadline for opting out, he added, the city could still do so if the regulations are deemed insufficient by aldermen.
Citing the high unemployment rate as a potentially greater social problem than addiction, Wasco said: “There are some social ills you aren’t talking about, and that’s men and women who have pride in what they do. All they wanna do is go back to work, and that will provide commerce. …If we put ’em to work, they’re not applying for all those social services.”
Ald. Doug Mark (R-3) noted the council stood as one to demand passage of the state’s first capital plan since 1999, and that aldermen should stand together now to ensure Rockford gets every penny it’s due.
Glen Turpoff, executive director of the Northern Illinois Building Contractors Association, agreed.
“We cannot afford to go from finally having the status of an area that’s going to get its share, and maybe a couple of dollars more, to an area that’s about to reach and meet the displeasure of a state that may act to curtail projects in your ward, or yours, that will finally make a difference to your constituents,” Turpoff told aldermen.
Rockford-Winnebago Better Roads Association Chairman Steve Nailor acknowledged the capital plan isn’t perfect, but that the city can’t afford to endanger any of the money earmarked for area projects.
“Should any portion of this capital bill that’s projected be affected, it will have a direct impact on all these projects, and you need to believe that,” he asserted. “If you prematurely jeopardize the funding source that has been provided, which project would you decide to delete?”
Ald. Frank Beach (R-10), the only alderman to vote in favor of the ban in committee, had the last word.
“It’s a sad state of affairs that our state has spent us into this problem, to where the only way we can support capital and infrastructure in this city and the other cities around our state is by now resorting to gambling as a source, as a line item,” Beach argued. “To me, that’s a disturbing trend in the direction we’re going on how we’re funding our government. Call the question, Your Honor.”
With that, a roll-call was taken. Outnumbered, aldermen Beach, Curran, Venita Hervey (D-5), Linda McNeely (D-13) and Joe Sosnowski (R-1) voted to uphold the proposed ban.
Asked for a reaction to the lack of support for the video gambling ban on the Rockford City Council, Bedell responded: “I think it’s surprising, because the money is going to come from local people. …It’s a very addictive product, and if you’ve got the opportunity not to have it and to protect your people, it seems that would be the wiser way to go.”
Bedell reported the addiction rate related to video gambling is 20 percent.
“If you want to protect your community, your friends, your neighbors, your children, your grandchildren—once you get it in, you’re not gonna be able to get these machines out,” she warned.
Following the vote, Ald. Mark referred to committee a resolution that would funnel all video gambling revenues toward capital equipment purchases, which have otherwise been put on hold as the city weathers the economic downturn.
Ald. Sosnowski submitted another resolution to committee, requesting that a portion of the revenues be allocated for treatment of gambling addiction.
Pawn shops, secondhand
stores to report electronically
Aldermen unanimously passed a committee report and subsequent ordinance requiring pawnbrokers and other secondhand store owners to submit daily reports electronically for review by law enforcement.
Before the new law, detailed logs were kept on paper and faxed to police. Now, store owners will be required to report their purchases, or merchandise accepted as collateral on loans, by filing electronically though LeadsOnline, LLC.
Some area pawnbrokers are uncomfortable with the ordinance, however, because they feel they’re bound by state and federal laws to not disclose their customers’ information to third parties, other than law enforcement or the courts.
James Vandiver, owner of Paymaster Pawn Shop, indicated: “The Truth in Lending law restricts sharing of non-public personal information to unaffiliated third parties, such as LeadsOnline.”
Vandiver argued pawnbrokers are obligated to protect the personal information of consumers from third parties.
Money Market Pawn Shop owner Matt Sigley had similar concerns.
“LeadsOnline is a profit organization,” Sigley noted, “and is not deputized by the local government authorities. Therefore, it will be illegal for me to comply with these requests to report to LeadsOnline. Not all buy-and-sell shops are required to report all their transaction to authorities as I do, and they should. However, I don’t want to put my operating license on the line or, worse yet, my customer’s identity at risk with third-party reporting. …I feel that the middle-man they’re trying to incorporate in this is just an added step that would put us at greater risk of information being exposed.”
Sigley is also fearful of a rumor that even more intrusive measures may be required later as part of the system.
“It has been brought to my attention that down the road with this LeadsOnline, that our customers will have to provide I.D. at time of purchase, and they’ll be photographed at time of purchase—not for selling me something, but just ’cause they wanna buy something in my store,” Sigley warned. “That doesn’t go over well.”
“We’ve looked at those issues,” Legal Director Patrick Hayes indicated prior to the vote. He noted hundreds of communities throughout the country have already taken similar steps, and that he doesn’t believe the ordinance, or LeadsOnline, conflicts with state or federal law. “If that does become a problem, we can address it at that time,” he added.
Filing the reports is free for businesses, but law enforcement agencies pay $13,000 per year to purchase the information from LeadsOnline. Rockford’s first four years have been paid for through a federal grant, but Sigley questions who will be stuck with the bill once the grant is exhausted.
Rockford residents to have edge in applying for police and fire jobs
On behalf of the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners, Ald. Ann Thompson-Kelly (D-7) successfully passed a resolution allowing the board to amend its requirement for applications as they relate to residency. Under the new application point system the board is considering, candidates living within the city would receive extra preference to be hired. Ald. Mark voted “no.”
Ald. Bill Robertson (I-14) was absent.
From the Jan. 27-Feb. 2, 2010 issue
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
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