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Illinois Gambling Compromise Fails; Cook County Seeks Higher Juke, VLT Fees

Posted On: 11/10/2011

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SPRINGFIELD, IL -- The Illinois market for video lottery terminals, expected to launch next year, may be on its way to regulatory modifications demanded by Gov. Pat Quinn. These modifications are unpopular with the state's budding VLT industry.

State lawmakers on Nov. 9 narrowly failed to pass Senate Bill 1849, sponsored by state Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), which would have skirted some of Gov. Pat Quinn's demands for gambling law reforms. The vote was 58 to 53.

The failure to pass the legislation makes it more likely that in order to win Quinn's support for statewide casino expansion, the General Assembly will eventually be forced to do everything the governor wants -- including create a local opt-in requirement for video lottery terminals; ban gambling operators (presumably including VLT owners) from making campaign contributions to politicians; and eliminate provisional video poker licenses. | SEE STORY

Provisional license regulations were part of the original 2009 Video Gaming Act or its trailer bill (regulatory implementation language). The amusement industry favored provisional licenses as a means to enable quick entry by operators into the VLT market.

But the Illinois Gaming Board had sharply criticized the provisional license procedure, claiming that criminal organizations would thus be permitted to enter the legal VLT business before they could be properly vetted.

In effect, the fate of the state's planned VLT industry appears to have become a pawn in a much larger battle as the governor and lawmakers struggle to control conditions for casino expansion.

Lawmakers want five new casinos and they want to select the locations themselves; Quinn wants the IGB to select the locations. Lawmakers want slots at racetracks and O'Hare Airport; Quinn doesn't.

The General Assembly passed the casino expansion bill last May but has used parliamentary rules to keep it from going to Quinn for signature or veto for nearly six months. In October, Quinn announced that he would demand various changes in the gambling expansion bill -- and revisions to the original Video Gaming Act -- as the price of his support.

Elsewhere in Illinois, Cook County board of supervisors' president Toni Preckwinkle has unveiled a 2012 budget that would force local operators to pay an additional $1.3 million in fees and taxes next year, assuming the plan is passed by the board, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune. | SEE STORY

The budget calls for $225 annual licenses for VLTs and prize vending machines, plus $150 licenses for jukeboxes, pool tables, amusement videogames and other coin-op devices.

A total of 10,000 machines countywide could be subject to the new fees. Cook County, the state's most populous, is home to the city of Chicago.