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updated: 11/18/2010 8:37 AM

State gaming chief says expansion will be tough

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  • Aaron Jaffe

      Aaron Jaffe

  • State Sen. Terry Link

      State Sen. Terry Link

 
 

SPRINGFIELD -- As lawmakers talk about big plans to expand gambling, the man charged with regulating the industry in Illinois called the proposal "overloaded" Wednesday.

Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe said that regulating horse tracks with slot machines and five new casinos would be a huge undertaking. And expansion plans come as regulators already are trying to handle greenlighting video gambling machines in bars across the state.

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And yet, it might not be Jaffe's problem if the gambling expansion plan were passed as is since the proposal sponsored by state Sen. Terry Link of Waukegan, which would get a new casino under the plan, would remove all five gaming board members and call on the governor to appoint replacements.

Jaffe says he's happy with the work of the staff at the gaming board, but that there's just a lot of work.

"Quite truthfully, we're understaffed at the present time to do the things that we have to do," said Jaffe, a former judge and state lawmaker who now lives in Evanston.

As for the plan to remove the gaming board members, Jaffe simply said that could create a void on the board, at least temporarily.

Link took a dig at the gaming board and Jaffe, saying if the members knew more about the gambling industry, they might not have as much trouble regulating it.

"I think we've got to get more expertise on that board," Link said.

Jaffe criticized the legislation as having "everything for everyone" because it calls for casinos in Park City, Ford Heights, Chicago, Rockford and Danville, along with 1,200 slot machines at Arlington Park. It also would allow existing casinos, such as Elgin, and one that's being built in Des Plaines, to add 800 gaming spots for a total of 2,000 each.

But Link said pleasing everyone is critical to getting his proposal approved. He needs votes from lawmakers from Illinois' various regions, for example. And if the casino and horse racing industries are not both satisfied with the final legislation, it probably won't have enough support to be approved, Link said.

In recent years, though, huge gambling expansions proposals have failed to get approval in Illinois.

Link thinks this year could be different because the state is months behind paying its bills and sending money to local schools. He hopes lawmakers are eager to get the estimated $1 billion a year more in revenue that gambling could create.

"There's a lot of people with their eyes open," Link said.

A vote on the proposal scheduled for this week was delayed. Link said a vote in the Senate could be held the week after Thanksgiving, at the earliest.

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