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Issue Date: Vol. 50, No. 5, May 2010, Posted On: 4/20/2010

Illinois Governor: Successful VLT Industry Doesn't Need Chicago

Marcus Webb
Illinois video lottery, video lottery terminal, VLT, video gaming terminal, coin machine operator, amusement operator, vending machine business, Mayor Richard Daley

SPRINGFIELD, IL -- Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed the Video Gaming Act last year, said that Illinois' planned video lottery market could succeed even if Chicago does not participate, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago proper is the state's largest and most populous city with 2.8 million of the state's 12.9 million citizens. Greater Chicago, which includes suburbs in three states, boasts a population of 9.7 million.

Quinn met with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley on April 6, but said he did not ask Daley to support legalizing video poker in Illinois' biggest city. The subject did not come up, the governor told reporters.

"Each city has its own option under the law," Quinn said. "That's what I insisted upon when I signed it -- that there [must] be a local option. So, it's up to them. Every city makes its own choice. I have no problems with that."

Quinn's assertion that Chicago's support is unnecessary for a viable VLT industry contradicts recent forecasts by the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. Earlier this year, the CGFA estimated that tax receipts from video lottery terminals may fall short by anywhere from $95 million to $178 million a year, or almost $2 billion over a decade, if machines are not permitted in Chicago.

In addition, some state legislators and members of the Illinois amusements industry have expressed concern that if Chicago opts out of the video poker market, it may tip the political balance against legal VLTs.

The state-regulated gambling market, which will be operated by independent vendors, is expected to roll out by the year's end. Government officials have forecast that the market could comprise more than 40,000 video lottery terminals and may generate up to $475 million per year in tax revenues. The state would get 35% of the estimated gross, or $178 million, with 5%, or $24 million, going to Chicago.

To date, more than 70 Illinois jurisdictions have opted out of the planned VLT market, but estimates show that these towns, cities and counties represent 10% or fewer of the state's population.

Greg Goldner, director of Back to Work Illinois, a pro-VLT lobbying group, said that dozens of jurisdictions were voting against participation every month last year. But that once his organization began an educational campaign, the opt-outs have slowed to a trickle of just one or two a month.

Mayor Daley's present position on VLTs is unknown. He was believed to be an early supporter of the market, but has shown no inclination to move the question in the City Council. However, one councilmember recently predicted that his colleagues would vote "overwhelmingly" to approve video gambling. See related story.

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