SPRINGFIELD, IL -- The Illinois governor has formally adopted a tough position on the state's video lottery program that calls for a local "opt-in" requirement. If Gov. Pat Quinn's proposal announced on Oct. 17 is passed by the state Legislature, it could further delay the launch of VLTs and drastically shrink the size of the eventual location-based video gambling market. As of now, VLTs are not expected to go live in Illinois until sometime next year.
An opt-in requirement means that before VLT terminals are installed within a particular city, town or county, local authorities must give formal approval of the machines.
The shift to an opt-in prerequisite would reverse the current VLT "opt-out" procedure for local municipalities and counties that was part of the original 2009 Video Gaming Act, which Quinn supported and signed.
If adopted by the Legislature, the opt-in rule could raise a much tougher threshold for video lottery implementations in Illinois jurisdictions. A smaller VLT market in terms of jurisdictions, locations and machines in Illinois could result, compared with original projections of some 40,000 to 50,000 networked poker games. This base was projected to generate from $375 million to $500 million a year in taxes for the state.
(The Video Gaming Act permits up to five video lottery terminals to be installed in licensed bars, restaurants and truckstops, among other venues that permit on-premise alcohol consumption. Some 21,000 Illinois bars and restaurants serve liquor.)
Since the Video Gaming Act passed more than two years ago, the Illinois Gaming Board, former FBI agents and newspapers have made sensational charges that VLTs would be so loosely regulated that organized crime will gain a significant foothold in the industry.
As a result, the law has created controversy. About 80 Illinois communities have voted to opt out of the VLT market. Chicago, the most important jurisdiction, is pro-VLT, for now.
The governor warned last summer that he might insist on the opt-in requirement. | SEE STORY
Quinn's opt-in requirement is part of his broader demand that state lawmakers modify a new gambling expansion bill in order to win the governor's support.
For more than four months, Illinois has been waiting to see how Quinn would respond to Senate Bill 744, a measure that would authorize five new land-based casinos and the installation of slot machines at six racetracks around the state.
The gambling expansion bill passed both Houses last summer, but the state Senate employed an obscure parliamentary procedure to keep the law from being sent to the governor's desk for a signature or veto.
Quinn said at an Oct. 17 press conference that he would veto the measure as it's currently written, but would sign it if lawmakers left the location of the proposed new casinos up to the Illinois Gaming Board rather than picking the sites themselves. Quinn opposes casinos at racetracks.
State Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan) said lawmakers will probably pass a "trailer bill" by Oct. 23 that would amend the original gambling expansion bill along the lines demanded by Quinn.
Observers said Quinn's tough language at this press conference -- he spoke of "principles" and warned of "corruption" -- indicated that his demands for specific modifications to SB 744 are firm and may be nonnegotiable.