* There is a lot going on in Mark Brown’s latest column. I wrote about some of it in today’s subscriber-only edition, but here’s another angle…
In the closing days of the spring legislative session, as it became apparent state lawmakers were going to approve a major gambling expansion, the leading proponent of so-called sweepstakes machines began desperately hiring lobbyists in a last-ditch effort to avoid getting left on the sidelines.
Among those who agreed to advocate for legalization of the gambling devices was Frank Bass, a Statehouse veteran who got his lobbying start nearly two decades earlier as a legislative liaison for Cook County government. […]
That’s a long windup to get to my main point, which is that Bass never registered to lobby on behalf of Collage or the sweepstakes folks.
Neither did former state Sen. Annazette Collins of Chicago, who sources tell me also was lobbying in support of the sweepstakes machines in those final days of May but has never officially disclosed it.
I wouldn’t have known anything about their involvement if I hadn’t been poking around.
A third end-of-session sweepstakes lobbyist, Frank McNeil, a former state official and Springfield alderman, did register for Collage, but not until Oct. 29 — after I started making calls.
First, we find out that a sweepstakes machine company owner and Luis Arroyo bribed a state Senator who was wearing a wire. And now this.
Legislators should be up in arms about this unsavory industry. We’ve known about problems with sweepstakes for a while now. Here’s a WBEZ story from last year…
A WBEZ investigation found some bars that were deemed unfit for video gambling have simply installed sweepstakes machines instead.
In Streator, a small city about 100 miles southwest of Chicago, you can gamble at sweepstakes machines in a tavern that was denied a license for video slot machines because state inspectors allegedly had uncovered multiple incidents of illegal sports gambling at that bar, records show. […]
The Illinois Gaming Board has maintained for years that sweepstakes machines are illegal. But efforts to crack down on them have encountered legal roadblocks in the past year.
The murky laws have allowed more and more businesses to offer the machines to their customers, officials said, even in some seemingly unlikely places.
On Chicago’s Northwest Side, the Bubbleland coin laundromat at Elston and Kimball has three sweepstakes machines in a corner near the entrance. One of those machines issued a receipt to a reporter who placed a bet and won. The laundromat attendant took the receipt, disappeared behind a door, and quickly returned with cash winnings.
House GOP Leader Jim Durkin and the House Democrats’ gaming point person Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) both filed bills to outlaw the machines. Both bills went nowhere. The Senate Dems’ gaming point person Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan) also wanted the machines outlawed. Rep. Tim Butler (R-Springfield) has a new bill to ban the machines. One of its hyphenated co-sponsors is Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago).
* Usually, I’m not in favor of banning stuff. Regulations are almost always preferable, in my mind, to outright bans. But this industry has gone out of its way to bring heat upon itself. And nobody should want to sit at the table with them to hash out a regulatory bill. So, I mean, how much more evidence do we need here?
Ban ‘em. This should be a no-brainer.