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Article posted: 6/12/2013 7:15 PM

Gambling companies question potential conflict of interest

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SPRINGFIELD -- A coalition of video gambling companies is protesting legislation that it says could unfairly benefit the Waukegan-based slot machine maker WMS Industries Inc.

WMS was acquired last month by Scientific Games, a company that runs the computer system that oversees all video gambling in bars and restaurants across Illinois.

To prevent conflicts of interest, state law doesn't allow one company to have a stake in multiple facets of the video gambling industry within Illinois. So Scientific Games' new interest in both an individual machine maker and the overall contract could run afoul of that rule and not allow WMS to sell its games in Illinois.

State lawmakers earlier this year approved a change to state law that would relax that rule, and other gambling companies in Illinois have asked Gov. Pat Quinn to veto the legislation, saying WMS could get an unfair advantage.

"The regulatory structure for video gaming in Illinois was working perfectly," said Jim Prescott, a spokesman for the companies asking for the veto. "It raises all kinds of questions about the appearance of a conflict of interest."

WMS Vice President Steve Angelo said at least a dozen other states have the same provision lawmakers approved without any problems, and he argued that the other companies are raising the issue for competitive reasons.

"It's a false concern," he said.

The state's regulators, the Illinois Gaming Board, didn't take a position on the legislation.

State Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat who helped sponsor the plan, said state regulators can handle making sure WMS doesn't get an unfair advantage because of its affiliation with Scientific Games.

"They still have a complete oversight of all of this," Link said.

Prescott said his group is asking for a meeting with Quinn to voice its concerns. A Quinn spokesman said the governor is reviewing the legislation and that he supports "ethical safeguards in the gaming industry."

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