Study: Illegal Operators Licensed For Illinois Video Gambling

The Illinois Gaming Board issued video gambling licenses to several people associated with crime and illegal gambling, according to a recently Chicago Tribune investigation. Former Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe blamed insufficient funding and said things will get worse to due budget cutbacks.

A recent Chicago Tribune investigation revealed the Illinois Gaming Board has issued licenses allowing at least two people with ties to crime and illegal gambling to run video-gambling machines. Since video gambling was legalized in 2009, the board has issued nearly 7,000 licenses and denied fewer than 400 applicants.

One license was given to a Rockford restaurant owner who was convicted of a felony for stealing $146,000 from a South Carolina hotel. Gaming Board officials said national criminal databases did not reveal his criminal past and added they could take action on his license at an upcoming meeting.

Also, Philip Webb, a man accused of working with his father to install illegal video-gambling machines in McHenry County bars received a license, although later in a plea bargain he was cleared of felony syndicated gambling. Today he is the president of a trade organization that lobbied for video gambling.

A license also was given to Vince Dublino who admitted in federal court that he installed illegal video gambling machines in bars west of Chicago and then falsified tax documents so he and the owners could hide the revenue.

Former Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe said, “Is it possible to drop the ball? Absolutely. I do think it’s important that we were never fully funded to have all the people that we were supposed to have. And I imagine that with cutbacks now, it’s going to be even worse.”

State Rep. Scott Drury said the revelations raise “very serious questions” about the state’s vetting process for applicants. “At a minimum, the general assembly should be looking into how the gaming board is carrying out its duties and conducting its investigations and making determinations about licenses. Ultimately, this is an issue of public trust,” he said. Last year Drury sponsored failed legislation that would have given the gaming board more authority to deny licenses.