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IL Gambling Expansion: Andy Shaw Voices BGA’s Concerns in Aug. 4 Chicago Tribune

Earlier this summer, the BGA began shining a light on controversial legislation in Springfield that would dramatically expand gaming in Illinois. To push the process toward more transparency, and to better educate the public, we:

Here’s the full-version:

Before Expanding Gambling, Let’s Get All the Facts

By Andy Shaw, president & CEO,  BGA

Flickr--Zdenko Zivkovic

In the final days of the spring legislative session the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill authorizing a massive expansion of gambling in Illinois that includes a city-owned casino in Chicago, casinos in four other locations and the installation of slot machines in airports and racetracks.

Senate Bill 744 is expected to reach Gov. Pat Quinn’s desk in the next month, and supporters are hoping that he signs it into law by October. The Better Government Association is not among them.

The BGA agrees with numerous critics of the bill, including the Tribune and the chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board, that this is a deeply flawed piece of legislation that should not become law until a much-needed fact-finding mission is completed.

The potential ramifications of the bill should be addressed, analyzed, discussed and debated openly and thoroughly so it’s better understood by the governor and the public. That, unfortunately, never happened in the rush-to-passage at the end of the legislative session.

For the record, the BGA is not ideologically opposed to an expansion of gambling, or a Chicago casino.

But the BGA is troubled by the hurried process that churned out a mammoth bill of breathtaking proportions. As a result the BGA proposes:

  • Forming an independent, fact-finding group. The governor should immediately appoint a review board, task force or commission mandated by Executive Order to explore the economic and social implications of SB 744. The group should produce a comprehensive report before the bill arrives on Quinn’s desk.
  • Soliciting meaningful public input. The legislature dealt the public out of this hand. Although the gambling expansion issue is not new to Illinois, SB 744 smacks of a “rush to judgment” that was passed without adequate due diligence. Public hearings should definitely be an integral part of the governor’s fact-finding task force.
  • Providing credible, independent economic research. There is a dismal lack of trustworthy economic research and data behind this bill, and it’s irresponsible not to assess its impact on Chicago and other communities throughout Illinois. The public deserves direct answers to some simple but crucial questions, including: What is the economic impact of new casinos around the state and the addition of so many more slot machines? What is the market demand for more gaming in Chicago and downstate markets and cities, especially now that video poker has been green-lighted by the Illinois Supreme Court? How many new jobs will really be created by the expansion? And what kind of jobs? Will state revenues actually increase or just be shifted away from other entertainment venues? What are the anticipated social costs?
    Governor Quinn should marshal the resources of his government, including the Departments of Revenue and Commerce and Economic Development, along with experts from state universities and research from other states and municipalities to provide credible answers. Relying on outdated research, or studies produced by partisan forces, makes for bad decisions.
  • Explaining the risks to taxpayers. SB744 enables the City of Chicago to own a casino license. What are the risks to the city’s “shareholders”–the taxpayers–if a casino runs into financial trouble or goes bust? At the end of the day, would taxpayers be forced to bail out a failed casino? What are the rewards to the taxpayers of a city-owned casino? The people have a right to know their level of exposure or return on investment from this bill.
  • Protecting against crime. Will the public be properly protected from the criminal activity and influence that always seem to surface when gambling is involved? Can and will the state invest the resources needed to regulate, investigate and oversee the gambling concerns that enter or expand in Illinois?

These are essential questions that merit thoughtful examination in the context of the additional strain the expansion would place on the state’s existing gambling regulatory system. Aaron Jaffe, the head of the Illinois Gaming Board, the state’s top gaming regulator, has voiced serious doubts about SB744 and questions the ability of his agency to properly scrutinize more gaming vendors while also overseeing the legalization of video poker in other parts of the state.

To address these serious concerns, the BGA is recommending Gov. Quinn act fast and get the pertinent information and real answers necessary to complete the fact-finding process the General Assembly failed to deliver.

Absent credible, reliable and satisfactory data to support each of these preconditions, the Governor should take whatever steps are necessary to prevent this bill from becoming law.

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Statewide update—March 4, 2011

FOID application

SouthtownStarShould gun owners’ names be released to public?, “The attorney general’s office, trying to enforce the state’s Freedom of Information law, told state police this week to release to an Associated Press reporter the list of names of firearm owner’s identification cards.”

  • (AP) Peoria Journal StarIllinois long-term pension debt jumps sharply, “The long-term gap between what Illinois owes future retirees and the money available to pay them jumped 21 percent under a new measuring system…”
  • Chicago TribuneIllinois moves to close Alden Village North nursing home, “The action follows a Tribune investigative series in October that revealed a 10-year pattern of neglect and death at the North Side facility, which cares for about 90 children and adults with severe developmental disabilities.”

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Statewide update—Feb. 22, 2011

Daily HeraldIllinois among leaders in total school districts, “Illinois, which has 868 school districts, has far more than the two states closest to it in population. Pennsylvania has 501 school districts and Ohio operates 610, according to numbers from those states.”

  • Daily HeraldConflict concern in Ela township, “One of John Barrington’s duties as Ela Township assessor is to estimate market values for most property for tax purposes. His wife’s job is to challenge those numbers and get them reduced for her clients. When she does, she collects a commission.”
  • Chicago TribunePower company holds off on cleaning up Chicago-area coal plans, “In recently filed documents, Midwest Generation signaled it might delay installing pollution controls at its six coal-fired power plants ‘for the maximum time available,’ making it more likely the aging units will keep churning out high levels of lung- and heart-damaging soot for most of the decade.”
  • Belleville News Democrat—Belleville man’s second appeal to stop Walmart TIF fails, “A Belleville man’s second appeal to stop the taxpayer incentives for a Belleville Walmart Supercenter development failed. The 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon on Feb. 7 affirmed St. Clair County Circuit Judge Lloyd Cueto’s September 2009 ruling that the land was blighted, qualifying it for tax increment financing.”
  • Peoria Journal StarDecatur model a TIF option, “The East Village Growth Cell, unlike the city’s other TIF districts, focuses on residential properties and would be designed to generate additional property tax revenues for home repairs such as new roofing, siding, porches, windows, driveways, etc.”

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Statewide Update—Feb. 10, 2011

  • Chicago TribuneNew report details scope of public pension shortfalls, “Chicago’s Civic Federation will release a report Thursday that shows the unfunded liabilities for 10 city and county pension funds grew sixfold from 2000 to 2009, with shortfalls now totaling nearly $23 billion.”
  • Daily HeraldCook public defender joins Alvarez in balking against budget cuts, “The Cook County public defender has joined State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez in opposing cuts proposed by county board President Toni Preckwinkle, raising the possibility the 2011 budget could unravel within three weeks of the deadline for passage.”
  • Daily HeraldDaley, airlines can’t reach airport deal, “After a high-stakes powwow in Washington between Daley and airline executives, which U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood brokered, the parties said there was no agreement on what airlines should pay for the ongoing expansion at the major air-travel hub.”
  • (Gatehouse News Service) Peoria Journal StarCullerton: Pension cuts unconstitutional, “Illinois Senate President John Cullerton on Wednesday tossed cold water on the idea of reducing future pension benefits for current state workers, but House Speaker Michael Madigan appeared to forge ahead anyway.”

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Statewide Update—Jan. 31, 2011

  • The Southern—Public takes advantage of changes to open government laws, “Instead of filing a lawsuit, members of the public can ask the Public Access Bureau in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to review withheld documents or meetings complaints, to make sure government bodies are not violating the Freedom of Information Act or the Open Meetings Act.”
  • (AP) Rockford Register Star—Pat Quinn to sign historic civil unions legislation, “Five states already allow civil unions or their equivalent, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Five other states and Washington, D.C., let gay couples marry outright, as do countries including Canada, South Africa and the Netherlands.”
  • State Journal-Register—Lawmakers seeking more money from state retirees for health care, “The legislature’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability will meet Wednesday to talk with two Quinn administration officials about how the state can craft an income-based formula for how much retirees will have to pay.”
  • Daily Herald—Law firm donates to DuPage board members, wins contract, “Nine of the 15 DuPage County Board members who approved a no-bid contract for an Itasca law firm to help redraw the county’s electoral boundaries have accepted campaign contributions from the group or its attorneys, a review by the Daily Herald and the Better Government Association shows.”
  • Chicago Tribune—CTA puts brakes on talk of closing Red Line stations, “The agency is in the early stages of soliciting feedback for an overhaul of the north branch of the Red Line and the Purple Line, from about Belmont north through Evanston and to Linden in Wilmette.”
  • Rockford Register Star—Lawsuit for Harlem Township records nears its end, “The township also has called the Freedom of Information Act requests by Mullins unduly burdensome and argues that some of the records she requested simply are not on file at the township.”

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Statewide Update—Jan. 27, 2011

  • Bloomington Pantagraph—Republicans outline redistricting plans, “Even though their party won’t have much say in this year’s redistricting process, state House Republican staff are looking at preliminary census figures to draw their own version of a proposed legislative map.”
  • The Southern—More charges filed against former deputy, “Former Saline County chief sheriff deputy and Harrisburg school district board president Todd Fort, already jailed on sex and misconduct charges, has been indicted by a Saline County grand jury on two counts of theft of governmental property.”

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Statewide Update—Jan. 25, 2011

  • Southtown Star—3 area men charged in ‘Cookie Jar’ probe, “A Tinley Park man, an Oak Forest man and a Burbank man, all of whom allegedly took part in a scheme to steal road salt from IDOT, were among seven people charged Monday in an ongoing crackdown on local public corruption.”
  • Trib Local (Evanston)—CTA considers chopping two Evanston stations, “As the Chicago Transit Authority seeks community input on potential improvements to the aging Purple and Red lines, three of the agency’s six options include eliminating the South Boulevard and Foster Street stations in Evanston — losses that city officials said would be a blow to commuters.”
  • Chicago Tribune—Editorial: Judicial arrogance, “With startling arrogance and audaciously twisted reasoning, two appellate judges ignored more than 100 years of legal precedent, invented a new definition of “residency” and ordered Rahm Emanuel off the Feb. 22 mayoral ballot.”
  • Rockford Register Star—Which School(s) could be closed? “Consolidating schools could help the district slash part of its $50 million budget shortfall for fiscal 2012.”
  • Daily Herald—East Dundee trustees discuss merits of PD merger, “Citing upcoming police contracts, a loss of autonomy, potential coverage issues and other reasons, several East Dundee trustees are balking at the idea of consolidating their police force with the ones in West Dundee and Sleepy Hollow.”
  • Rockford Register Star—Vehicles, EMS among Rockford outsourcing possibilities, “According to a report from Chicago-based Baker Tilly, the consulting firm hired last fall to assist in an outsourcing study, the city could realize up to $10.5 million is savings if it moved forward on five outsourcing and four service delivery suggestions.”







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