SPRINGFIELD, IL -- The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments on May 17 that could torpedo the Video Gaming Act, passed in 2009 as part of a $31 billion omnibus funding bill.
The Video Gaming Act legalized operator-run video lottery terminals. The resulting VLT market, expected to launch by the second half of 2011, was projected to comprise 40,000 to 50,000 networked poker games that would generate between $375 million and $500 million a year in taxes for the state. The machines are authorized for locations licensed for on-premise liquor consumption.
The Illinois Coin Machine Operators Association has lobbied for VLTs since the 1980s.
In arguments before the Supreme Court, plaintiffs said the bill improperly combined disparate legislation into a single package and consequently violated a state constitutional provision against bundling unrelated matters into a single vote of the Legislature.
Defenders said all the elements of the omnibus bill related to fundraising and therefore the measure conforms to constitutional requirements.
Road crews have already started some of the work funded by the bill, but the launch of the state's VLT market has been slow in coming for various reasons. | SEE STORY
For now, VLTs are "on hold" in Illinois pursuant to a stay on the entire omnibus bill, issued by the state's 1st District Appellate Court in January. Judges on the appeals court ruled that no "natural and logical connection" existed between the construction and the taxes to pay for them.
The Illinois Supreme Court has not announced when the court will rule on the case. If the high court rules for the plaintiffs, then the Video Gaming Act would be null and void.
At that point, the state Legislature would have to pass the law again, but as a standalone bill in order to revive the state's planned VLT industry. But Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) said VLT supporters might find it difficult to pass the Video Gaming Act separately because it has become a matter of sharp controversy in Illinois in the past 18 months.
About 80 cities and counties had voted to opt out of participation in the planned VLT market before the Supreme Court heard the case.