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Left Justified: Mighty Quinn signs H.B. 4927, expands video poker

August 18, 2010

By Stanley Campbell

I’m going to vote for the Green Party candidate for governor. I decided after the Mighty Quinn signed into law video slot machines, H.B. 4927.

The Springfield Journal asks “Who in the world is advising Quinn?” They suggest that for him to sign the bill into law (during the after-hours on a Friday night, no less) is an attempt to lose public scrutiny and the media, and sneak a bad bill into law.

The expansion of video poker is not a good idea. The whole program is dripping in corruption, sleazy politics and lots of money in somebody’s pocket.

First, they allow video slot machines, then hamstring the Illinois Gaming Board (the agency watchdog) and now add more fat to the pork. The Protestant anti-gambling watchdog ILCAAAP has serious complaints with the bill:

H.B. 4927 allows 24-hour gambling at truck stops, which has been denied to casinos by the Gaming Board. Watch the casino owners claim unfair competition and seek 24-hour gambling for themselves.

H.B. 4927 also allows penny bets, called “wolves in sheep’s clothing” by no less than a gambling industry publication. Gamblers can bet as much as $100 an hour in penny increments and lose more than they would at quarter machines because of lower payout on penny machines.

H.B. 4927 requires conviction for a gambling violation to justify denial of a license. If you murder someone, set their feet in concrete, and dump them into the Rock River, you can still get a video gaming license. Rarely has anyone been convicted for gambling.

H.B. 4927 allows limited-liability corporations to apply for a license, which makes it harder to determine who’s the real owner.

It still does NOT allow “knockoff” switches or payouts on “for amusement only” machines. Paying out always has been illegal, but rarely enforced. Paying out now will jeopardize an establishment’s chance of getting licensed for the new slots.

If anyone observes paying out on “for amusement only” machines, it should be reported to the Illinois Gaming Board: RIGB004@revenue.state.il.us.

The Chicago Tribune editorialized “The Bad Guys Won” (Aug. 4, 2010). I concur, and quote them below, with their kind permission:

The Illinois Gaming Board tries to keep organized crime out of state-sanctioned gambling. The Trib opines that the new law was written by lobbyists for the coin machine industry and “hustled through the General Assembly without input from citizens or regulators.”

Quinn announced on a Friday evening that he had signed the bill, “in an attempt to fly under the media radar. It’s terrible public policy, and the governor knows it. But the bad guys have friends, and they won.”

I wish we had editorial writers like that here in the Forest City.

The Tribune goes on to explain that long before the General Assembly voted to “allow video gambling in taverns, illegal video gambling was a thriving underground enterprise.” Bets were placed and payouts were made at thousands of machines that were supposedly there only for amusement. Occasional police raids typically ended with fines for liquor code or amusement tax violations—the price of doing business, really. Eventually, the state decided it might as well get a cut.

As the Tribune reported:

To reassure citizens who worried about legalizing an industry run by lawbreakers, the video gaming act promised stringent background checks to weed out the bad actors. But the Gaming Board’s guidelines, which would have allowed it to exclude past violators, ran into interference.

Quinn sees no need to worry. Regulators still have all the tools they need to keep “unsavory elements” out of the video gaming industry, the governor said. Tell that to the Gaming Board, which will soon have up to 50,000 new gambling stations to license with one hand tied behind its back.

Back when he was lieutenant governor, Quinn had all sorts of reservations about state-sanctioned gambling. He’s gotten over all of that now because video gambling will kick in money for road and bridge projects. Video gaming is crucial to full funding and implementation of Illinois’ capital plan. Without it, the state will fall short of meeting key goals such as 439,000 jobs created over a 10-year period. Quinn’s signature is a win for lobbyists who represent gambling interests and tavern owners who have been breaking the law all along. It’s a slap at the Gaming Board, and the public.

I appreciate the Chicago Tribune allowing me to quote extensively from their well-written and perceptive editorial.

I hope somebody will do some investigative reporting and give us the scoop on “behind the scenes.” We might watch another governor sent to the big house.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Aug. 18-24, 2010 issue

One Comment

  1. John Alan Boryk

    August 28, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Well written and to the point. Thanks for keeping the issue alive in Rockford!

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