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Question of the day

Wednesday, Mar 28, 2012

* The Tribune editorial board had some news to report in an editorial demanding, again, that the video gaming law be repealed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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Looking for an adult conversation - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 2:55 pm:

    To call this an expansion of gaming is to ignore the prevalence of the video poker racket. The question isn’t whether or not to have gambling in bars and taverns, its whether that business should be above board and contribute to the state, or be be underground and subsidize the mob. I don’t understand why the the “amusement-only” farce hasn;t been a bigger part of the debate.

  2. - SoIL - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 2:56 pm:

    To scrap video gaming at this point would cost businesses in Illinois hundreds of millions of dollars ALREADY invested in this 2 1/2 year old law. Also instead of running a highly regulated gaming business, the state would revert to the status quo of gray games paying out in bars and clubs. Taxing a regulating is the way to go!

  3. - reformer - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 2:57 pm:

    The video game industry lobbied for the bill to legalize video poker That suggests the industry sees a gain, not a loss, in revenue from legalization.

    It’s pretty clear the revenue estimates when the bill was passed won’t be realized. Even though Quinn signed the bill, he has apparently had some buyer’s remorse. Time to pull the plug.

  4. - reformer - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 3:00 pm:

    Looking for
    If you’re right about the widespread illegal gambling with the current video games, you’re arguing that bar owners engaged in illegal gambling are nonetheless suitable to gambling licenses.

  5. - Fight Fair - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 3:09 pm:

    The editorial says that, with so much of the state now off-limits to video gambling, it won’t ever supply all the expected revenue. So let’s do a sensible casino bill instead. That’s basically the bargain the governor offered the G.A. last fall when he said he’d veto the big casino bill: ‘You guys can have casinos and no casino expansion, or you can have casino expansion with only opt-in video gaming.’ Why not take him up on that? Repeal video gambling, and give him a casino bill? Pre-empting video gambling makes casino expansion a much easier vote for legislators.

  6. - Way South of I-80 - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 3:10 pm:

    What is really amusing is that counties have statutes that forbid legal gaming - which makes me think illegal gaming must be just fine since it is everywhere. I just recently counted 23 illegal video poker machines in one club for “amusement only”. And yes of course they pay out.
    The Gaming Board should think about making one more list including where and how many current illegal machines exist today in Illinois.

  7. - TCB - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 3:11 pm:

    Scrap it, but replace it with a comparable sized revenue stream in order allow the capital plan to go as it was intended……I wonder if there is an political will to replace it with the Cigarette Tax? If Im not mistaken, the CigTax would’ve generated a more than $300 million per year, which would would help fill a big hole left by Video Gaming.

    Personally I’d rather see video gaming happen & be state-wide, but here we are nearly 3 years after it was established & it has yet you bring in a penny.

  8. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 3:17 pm:

    === many lawmakers didn’t realize that the state’s biggest city previously had outlawed video gambling. ===

    They should have asked me.

    To your point Rich, we should dump the video gaming law AND give the Gaming Board the police powers necessary to go after the illegal poker racket.

    Many of these machines are in establishments that local law enforcement not only refuses to touch, but frequents. I’m not saying that they are all mobbed up, but I doubt there are very few that aren’t making illegal payouts.

  9. - Kasich Walker, Jr. - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 3:28 pm:

    “The 2009 law allowed communities to opt out of video gambling, further shrinking the portion of Illinois where this menace could thrive….Imagine the public uproar in many of those locales if officials now try to legalize gambling. ”
    Menace? Unlike pay day loan & car title operations that seem to pop up like dandelions?

    I guess I will have to “imagine” the uproar, because I sure won’t hear it.

  10. - wishbone - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 3:35 pm:

    OMG, we just figured out that prohibition lets the mob in. What a bunch of geniuses we have running the state. They never heard of Al Capone. Decriminalize, tax, and regulate recreational drugs, gambling and prostitution. All the victimless “crimes”.

  11. - Highland, IL - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 3:42 pm:

    Our City Council just “legalized” video gambling at their last meeting. Should we expect to become the Vegas of Madison County? Because we’ve never had a problem…..uh…never mind that…

  12. - OneMan - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 3:45 pm:

    The law has some real issues (it should have had the lottery run it and own the machines, and split the machine owner cut between the lottery, the site holder it would have saved a ton of BS and would have led more communities to sign on)…

    But that ship has sailed, at this point just ending it isn’t going to do anyone any favors. Tweak the law in a few years. Then again at the rate the regulators are working it will never happen anyway.

  13. - hisgirlfriday - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 3:53 pm:

    THE STATE OF ILLINOIS NEEDS REVENUE. It needs more revenue just to pay down its backlog of bills let alone current and future services.

    Video poker allows the collection of some revenue that will make it easier for us to pay our bills, whether we get from it a little or a lot of revenue, without requiring the raising of taxes or more borrowing that the Tribune has spoken against even more frequently and harshly than video poker.

    Unless Mother Tribune can come up with an editorial announcing the discovery of the secret of alchemy that it is willing to share with the General Assembly, allowing things like video poker to raise revenue seems the most politically palatable option here.

    And honestly, I hate saying it as a “newspaperman” at heart, but one has to wonder why anyone even bothers paying attention to what newspaper editorial boards have to say about business or economics any more when they are having just as many troubles as the state figuring out how to pay the bills.

  14. - Just the Facts - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 4:17 pm:

    I agree with Rich. This legislation when implemented will take away a source of illegal, and untaxed, income. The Tribune needs to stop with this nonsense already.

  15. - cermak_rd - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 4:30 pm:

    So why is arguing that counties and towns have laws against gambling an argument against this law? This seems to be a perfect case of democracy in action with each jurisdiction choosing.

    I live not too far from the former C&S Coin Op Amusements building that was bombed over video gambling by the Outfit (or what’s left of it). Making it illegal and scarce is suiting these guys just fine.

  16. - RMWStanford - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 4:42 pm:

    As one poster mention video gaming machines are every where now and illegal gambling is taking place. Right now their is no benefit to the state or society from tax revenues and the money is flowing by a large to illegal operations. Legalizing these machines would make the revenue taxable weaken those illegal outfits. Video gambling machines and other forms of gambling should be legal for adults.

  17. - Downstater - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 4:46 pm:

    Yellow Dog Democrat. The problem is not that the Police are “all mobbed up” or taking illegal payments. The problem in many small communities around me is that you can’t raid the bars and ignore the Moose, VFW, Eagles, and other service clubs that are surviving off the illegal video poker. There is no small town or county prosecutor who will shut down all the service clubs and then try to get re-electd.

    The State of Illinois is loosing out on millions of dollars of revenue. The Department of Revenue has had the tools to shut this down and cannot or has not. We should capture the revenue and tax it and then it will also appear on the income taxes for those the business and individuals who currently take all the income from the machines “under the table.”

  18. - mark walker - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 4:50 pm:

    Leave the law as it is and let it roll out. Current local options are good government.

  19. - Quinn T. Sential - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 4:55 pm:

    QUOTD tomorrow:

    Do you think Blago’s Former COS should have been sentenced to more than 10 days in jail?

  20. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 5:08 pm:

    Dump this law and video poker. Let’s just put one armed bandits everywhere except schools and places of worship. The state needs the money.

  21. - reformer - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 6:06 pm:

    The video machine industry lobbied for legalization. Do you suppose they did so to reduce their revenues? I didn’t think so. Consequently, why do you think the unsavory elements in that industry will be cut out of revnues?

  22. - mokenavince - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 6:07 pm:

    These video games are rampent in taverns,veterans
    halls, and frateral clubs. Why not collect the tax instead of outfit guys collecting the profits.
    The city councils that reject it are just damn fools.Patch work laws never seem to work.

  23. - The truth - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 9:52 pm:

    The argument that legalizing video poker will clear out the mob is not true. Some will slip through. Maybe they’ve never been arrested, maybe they’ve never made it into an federal OC database. Some will get through. The original bill was poorly written. It should be scrapped.

  24. - Bemused - Wednesday, Mar 28, 12 @ 10:48 pm:

    There is under the table, off the books stuff that is accepted practice in more than a few industrys. I wonder how many mom and pop shops there are that want to see this go legal. As with the service orgs this adds to the small bar owners bottom line. Kinda like paying help in cash and a few other little tricks.

  25. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Mar 29, 12 @ 8:42 am:

    @Downstater -

    I never said anything about taverns. I’m well aware that fraternal organizations have machines that are making illegal payouts. I’m also well aware that police officers, police chiefs, mayors and county prosecutors are sometimes members of the American Legion, Moose, Eagles and VFW.

    That’s precisely why I believe that the only way you are going to get strict enforcement of the gambling ban is to give the Gaming Board the teeth and the resources.

    BTW, let’s not delude ourselves into believing that legalization will get the mob out of the video poker business. It just makes their business model legal.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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