Committee Denies Illinois Video Gambling Reforms

A little known legislative panel, the Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, recently voted to reject video gambling reforms proposed by the Illinois Gaming Board last fall. Aaron Jaffe, Gaming Board chairman, said he was "astounded" and will make the case for the reforms to the General Assembly.

The Illinois Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a panel of House and Senate lawmakers, recently–and unexpectedly—voted to reject in their entirety video gambling reforms proposed by the Illinois Gaming Board. Aaron Jaffe, chairman of the board, which proposed the reforms, said he was “astounded” by the committee’s actions, which followed a closed-door meeting. “This is an open invitation for bad people to come into gambling,” Jaffe said.

Last November, the Gaming Board approved reforms to ensure unlicensed middlemen were not slipping through loopholes and profiting from selling contracts for video gambling machines. More than 3,000 restaurants, bars, truck stops and clubs with more than 12,000 video gambling machines would have been impacted if their contracts were questioned. The proposed reforms also would have created a blacklist of individuals banned from doing business with video gambling companies, similar to a list that exists for casinos.

The proposals followed an exposé in the Chicago Tribune that revealed that middlemen would persuade bar owners to sign exclusive contracts for video gambling machines, then the middlemen would sell those contracts to licensed companies that provided the machines. The middlemen often were paid up to $20,000 per bar.

Committee member state Rep. Lou Lang said the Gaming Board “exceeded their authority” with the proposals. Jaffe said he will appeal to the General Assembly to approve the reforms.

Meanwhile, officials in Tinley Park voted to allow video gambling machines at local establishments with liquor licenses. Each is allowed up to five machines and officials estimate the village will receive $180,000-$300,000 in revenue.

Trustee Dave Seaman, finance chairman, said state law allows video gambling and Tinley Park residents leave to spend their money in towns that allow gambling machines. “For better or worse, the horse is out of the barn, so to speak,” Seaman said. Bob Shaffner, former commander of American Legion Post 615, agreed and asked the board to pass the ordinance “because the veteran’s organizations in town have lost a lot of business to the establishments that are outside of our community who do have the slot machines.”

Police Chief Steve Neubauer said he has “no law enforcement basis to oppose video gaming” after talking with chiefs in communities that allowed it. He added several chiefs said gambling “has been financially good for their villages.”