County board committee bans video gambling in unincorporated Cook
Friday, October 02, 2009
by Amy Lee
The Cook County Board's finance committee on Thursday banned video
gambling machines from popping up in unincorporated areas of the
The ban, if approved by the full board, would affect 53 Southland
businesses that hold a liquor license. The full board will consider the
ban at its Tuesday meeting.
"The long-term cost to society will far outweigh any short-term
gains in funding," John Pastuovic, of the Chicago Crime Commission,
told the committee. "Illinois will become the wild west of gambling."
The Legislature in July approved a law allowing video gaming in
bars, restaurants, truck stops and fraternal organizations that serve
alcohol, and estimates the state can reap anywhere from $345 million to
$640 million annually in profits and taxes. A majority of that cash
would be pumped into the state's $31 billion capital plan to fix the
state's roads, bridges and schools.
Commissioner Elizabeth Gorman (R-17th), of Orland Park, voted to put
off voting on the ban before she voted to support the ban. The
resolution was approved with 10 votes to ban video gambling, one
against the ban and one present. Five commissioners were absent.
"This will put a dent into our bill for capital improvements less
than 24 hours before the Olympic committee votes on our bid," said
Gorman said. "I agree with everything that's been said on both sides. I
need to hear more from Elk Grove to Orland."
The law calls for 25 percent of the total cash collected in each
machine to go to the state, and 5 percent to communities that allow
video gaming; the remaining 70 percent would be split evenly between
the machine distributor and the owner of a gaming establishment.
County ordinances already bar the machines, but the committee opted
to add language to the prohibition to avoid any potential loopholes or
conflicts with the state's new video gaming law.
The state law paves will allow up to 65,000 video gambling machines
to legally operate and pay winnings to players. Another 65,000 video
gambling machines operate in Illinois under a law that allows playing
for entertainment purposes only; the new law calls for the removal of
"entertainment only" machines.
Critics of those machines have long argued the machines are
controlled by the Mob and that many pay out, as long as the patron is
on good terms with the barkeep.
"If you think organized crime has been eliminated in Chicago,
Illinois or the nation, you could not be further from the truth," said
James Wagner, a nationally known expert who spent 30 years with the
Federal Bureau of Investigation organized crime unit in Chicago.
"The machines are so lucrative, the Outfit is just salivating over this. They will fight hard to expand this cash business."
But Mike Pappas, an Orland Park resident and board member for the
Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association, scoffed at the idea that
video gaming machines will worsen crime in Illinois or bankrupt
addicted players. He urged the board to allow the machines in
unincorporated Cook County.
"Gambling is already mainstream in Illinois, with Internet gambling,
the Lottery, off-track betting and casinos," he said. "People can make
their own responsible decisions."
HOW THEY VOTED
The Cook County Board's finance committee voted on Thursday to ban
video gambling in unincorporated areas of Cook County. A yes vote
affirmed the ban. Here's how commissioners from the Southland voted:
• Jerry Butler (D-3rd), of Chicago: Yes
• John P. Daley (D-11th), of Chicago: Yes
• Elizabeth Doody Gorman (R-17th), of Orland Park: Yes
• Joan Patricia Murphy (D-6th), of Crestwood: Absent
• Deborah Sims (D-5th), of Chicago: Absent