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Issue Date: Vol. 52, No. 3, March 2012, Posted On: 2/16/2012

Media Continue To Highlight Poker Criminals

Marcus Webb
Illinois video gaming, Illinois VLT, amusement business, Casey Szaflarski, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association, Michael Sarno, video gaming business, video poker machine

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Sun Times on Feb. 8 ran this headline: "Video poker king gets three-plus years in prison." The story reported on the sentencing of Casey Szaflarski, who was convicted of running an illegal video poker ring in Chicago bars on behalf of an alleged crime syndicate. | SEE SUN TIMES

The next day, Feb. 9, the Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune and local network news TV and radio outlets gave even more play to stories about the 25-year sentence handed down to reputed mob boss Michael Sarno for his role in the 2003 bombing of a competitor for the video poker business in Berwyn. | SEE STORY

According to members of the Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association, Chicago newspapers and news broadcasters have had a longstanding penchant to underscore bad news about video poker and play down any good news on the subject. | SEE STORY

ICMOA supports the state's 2009 Video Gaming Act, which has authorized a market for operator-run video lottery terminals. That market is expected to launch late this year, and could eventually comprise up to 50,000 machine statewide that generate up to $500 million a year in tax revenues.

However, local jurisdictions may choose to "opt out" of participation in the Illinois VLT market. So far, more than 80 cities, towns and counties have done so.

Chicago, widely viewed as the largest and most important single jurisdiction for a prosperous VLT industry, still has not approved participation in the sector. | SEE TRIBUNE

A continued focus by local media on negative news about links between video poker and organized crime could have a deleterious effect on the opinions of Chicago's city officials and its citizens regarding legal VLTs, industry members contend.

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