Legislative tricks on gambling
Legislation expanding gambling in Illinois shouldn't be hard to draft or pass. The fact that legislators can't do it raises questions about their motivation.
If there was any doubt left that Gov. Pat Quinn is all that stands between the people and another bad gambling expansion bill, it's dispelled by the details of the General Assembly's third effort to pass one.
Here's what Arthur Bilek, the executive director of the Chicago Crime Commission, had to say about the 550-page proposal now pending before the Illinois Senate.
"Without the necessary regulations being in place, there is every likelihood that organized crime and corruption will enter the gaming system and Illinois will suffer another blow to its national reputation."
Bilek is assuming, of course, that Illinois' national reputation could actually get worse, and that's an arguable proposition. Nonetheless, his point is well taken.
What's currently under consideration and being promoted by the most powerful of interests ought to be unacceptable to those concerned that gambling enterprises in Illinois be overseen and regulated in a proper and responsible way.
That ought not be a controversial view. But that sound proposition is being ignored by some legislators who don't have the public interest at heart and other legislators who are desperate for a casino of their own and more tax revenues to spend.
Here is the gist of what's up for debate: Plans call for roughly 10 more casinos (including one in Danville) and slot machines at race tracks. That's not complicated, and Quinn has indicated he can live with it.
But it doesn't take a 500-page bill to do that. A 500-page bill is needed to pull plenty of fast ones.
Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe complained at a Senate hearing Wednesday that legislation authorizing the expansion could be drafted in 25 to 30 pages and characterized the bloated mass under consideration as "impossible to read" and a "Christmas tree" with "something for everyone."
The big issue in the bill is the proposed Chicago casino, which would be city-owned and never subject to losing its license to operate, no matter what its misdeeds.
One need not be unduly cynical to see that a Chicago casino would be a magnet for politics, clout and organized crime. The state's gaming commission has exclusive regulatory authority over all casinos in Illinois. But it would not have such authority over the Chicago casino. There can be no innocent explanation for that provision.
The legislation calls for all current gaming commission members to be dismissed. Why do certain interests want competent regulators thrown overboard? This reeks of chicanery.
The legislation sets time limits for licensing new facilities that are beyond the capacity of the gaming commission staff to meet. People interested in effective oversight do not intentionally create circumstances where effective oversight is impossible.
Gov. Quinn has repeatedly stated that he won't sign a bad bill. Legislators hear his complaints, and they promise to do better. Then they don't, and it's no accident why they don't.
Sadly, Quinn should wave his veto pen around and let legislators know he's not afraid to use it — again.