Gambling without the oversight

Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 8/7/2011 8:54 AM

Two months have passed since the Illinois General Assembly approved legislation that would expand gambling statewide.

It remains, today, in limbo. Gov. Pat Quinn has not signed the measure, and beyond that, there has been little hint of exactly where Quinn stands. Some say we won't know what Quinn plans to do until at least October, when the legislature reconvenes.


Most believe -- and we among them -- that Quinn has serious reservations, and that would explain why there has been no action and why toadies for the gaming industry have held the bill up while trying to determine how to appease him.

By the same token, Quinn's lack of action also indicates a willingness to deal. If he were inalterably opposed, after all, logic says that he would have discarded the bill outright.

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about this legislation, as we have outlined in the past. We believe there is a need for slots at Arlington Park to keep the racetrack viable, but the massive increase in gambling envisioned by the bill would spawn widespread problems.

The Chicago Crime Commission, in a statement last week urging Quinn not to sign the measure, certainly recognized one of the central problems -- lack of adequate regulatory control.

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Jody Weis, deputy director of the crime commission, described the legislation as "critically flawed."

In essence, the crime commission said the expansion of so much gambling would be an invitation to organized crime, local corruption and other unsavory elements.

The Illinois Gaming Board, said Art Bilek, executive vice president of the crime commission, is ill-equipped to handle the flood of new gambling that would be authorized by the legislation.

"Those regulatory shortcomings, coupled with the almost unbelievable number of new gambling activities provided by the bill, will enable the always ingenious and persistent crime syndicate to seek out schemes to enrich itself by getting into the state's legal gambling business," Bilek said in an appraisal released by the crime commission.

Interestingly enough, the gaming board itself does not disagree and, in fact, has issued similar warnings of its own.

Last month, Aaron Jaffe, chairman of the gaming board, called the gambling legislation "409 pages of garbage." He said he would be "flabbergasted" if Quinn signed it.


We hope Jaffe is right.

As we have said previously, we can tolerate, even enjoy, a restricted gambling industry. But a proposal that triples the number of slot machines in the state -- all in addition to the video gaming that's already on the way -- is not in Illinois' best interests.

It is our belief that Quinn does not want a tainted future like that to be his legacy. At least, that is our hope.