SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe gave a warning Wednesday that big gambling expansion plans to put new casinos in Lake County and elsewhere would take regulators years to implement.
The state's top gambling regulator told state senators at a contentious hearing that keeping new gambling options crime-free would require hundreds of new employees at a time when the state's budget is already crunched.
"We need 100 more positions right now, but if you pass the bill we are going to need 400 more positions. It's just that simple," Jaffe said.
At one point during the nearly three-hour hearing, Jaffe said the 554-page gambling proposal is so complicated and dense that he doubted lawmakers at the hearing had read the legislation front to back.
He even singled out state Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat who's working to shepherd the plan through the Senate.
Link, who has long championed gambling in the state, did not have to wait long to fire back at Jaffe, saying that Jaffe wouldn't have so many complaints with the proposal if he'd have contacted Link during the process.
"The only time that I've had your legislative person in my office was to ask for pay raises for you guys," Link said.
"Why is it that a regulatory agency can have time to go on TV, can have time to go on the radio and can have time to go on the press but doesn't have time to sit down with the chief sponsor of the bill?" Link added, saying Jaffe had attacked him through those media.
"I'd say you've attacked me more times," Jaffe told Link. "You've been absolutely atrocious in that regard."
Jaffe added that Link never consulted the Gaming Board when drafting the legislation.
"I don't like to be insulting," Jaffe told Link, "but I just think what you are saying is preposterous."
"Well, I think what you're saying is beyond that," Link said.
The battle between Link and Jaffe in some ways represents the contention that has prevented a gambling expansion plan from becoming law in Illinois. The legislature has twice sent a gambling proposal to Gov. Pat Quinn's desk and twice Quinn has vetoed it.
This newest proposal includes new casinos in Lake County and Chicago, as well as slot machines at Arlington Park, Internet gambling and tax breaks for large casinos.
Gov. Pat Quinn backed Jaffe and his board at a separate event before the hearing.
Quinn told reporters that he supports the board, which he characterized as a watchdog group that makes sure no "monkey business" takes place in the state.
"Over the last quarter century they've done a good job for the people of Illinois," Quinn said. "We the people do not want bad characters infiltrating gambling in Illinois. This particular board has done its job."