* The Tribune editorial board had some news to report in an editorial demanding, again, that the video gaming law be repealed…
•When sponsors jammed this bill through the Legislature, many lawmakers didn’t realize that the state’s biggest city previously had outlawed video gambling. Chicago aldermen wise to the public’s antipathy toward video gambling haven’t been foolish enough to risk trying to overturn that ban.
•The 2009 law allowed communities to opt out of video gambling, further shrinking the portion of Illinois where this menace could thrive. Until recently, the Illinois Gaming Board’s unofficial list included about 80 opt-out communities. But we’ve just learned that a new state survey turned up nearly double that number: 151 municipalities — plus six counties (Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Mercer and Wayne) that have banned video gambling in all of their unincorporated areas.
•And on Tuesday we learned of what could be a third geographic exclusion to video gambling: Lawyers for gambling companies have told the Gaming Board that perhaps half of the communities in Illinois — and an unknown number of counties — have statutes that forbid all legalized gambling. Under the video gambling law, those communities, too, are ineligible for terminals, unless their city councils or county boards decide to reverse those anti-gambling statutes. Imagine the public uproar in many of those locales if officials now try to legalize gambling. (The state lottery law specifically forbade any impact on lottery sales in these no-gambling locales, but the video gambling act didn’t include a similar provision.)
Nobody yet knows how much of Illinois is off-limits to video gambling. But it’s a lot. We also learned Tuesday that the Gaming Board is investigating whether every community and county in Illinois has either an opt-out statute or an anti-gambling statute. The board will then build three lists: communities and counties where bans make gambling illegal, communities and counties that have opted out of video gambling since 2009, and the leftover communities and counties where terminals could be licensed. Much of that territory may be in less populated regions south of Interstate 80 — and arguably unlikely to produce big revenues for the state.
My own opinion, which I’ve expressed several times, is that legalizing video gambling takes money out of the pockets of mobsters, who control a big chunk of the video poker business here.
* The Question: Do you agree with the Tribune that the video gaming law ought to be scrapped? Explain, please. Thanks.