Friday, October 2, 2009

Cook County rush to reinforce video gaming undermines suburban communities

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The Bridget Gainer rush to reinforce Cook County's questionable ban on video gaming machines raises some real questions.

Who is really behind the effort?

Casino lobbyists -- including one Cook County board member and several who have received Casino industry related donations -- want the video gaming measure killed but buried before the public can understand the issues.

Here are some facts:

A-Local Villages should have the power to decide on their own whether or not they should be able to permit video gaming in their communities. Why should Gainer, a former executive at the politically connected insurance giant AON, and the Cook County Board decide that for them?

Video Gaming could generate, through licensing options, as much as $500,000 a year for suburban communities. Each establishment could install 5 machines, and licensing costs would be about $5,000 a year. And each village could see as many as 15-20 establishments installing the devices.

B-Right now, there are about 60,000 illegal video gaming devices being managed by organized crime and independents who are breaking the law. These machines exist but the county is incapable of cracking down on them. The way to undermine the illegal criminal activity is to put the reality under legal parameters and bring them out into the sunshine.

Gov. Pat Quinn's legislation allowing video gaming, would permit 75,000 machines to be installed in the state. Statewide fees and taxes from the machine profits would fund a longterm and badly needed $31 billion state capital improvement plan.

Gainer's drive to help the Illinois Casino lobby push through the bill will undermine that capital improvements plan.

C-The real victims in this are people and businesses living in the Unincorporated portions of Cook County that are not living under suburban municipal rule and have to suffer through the oppression of Cook County Government.

Gainer's law prevents those businesses in unincorporated communities from installing the video gaming devices. Yet, Gainer's district has how much unincorporated area? Zilch!

In fact, most of the commissioners on the Cook County board who pushed this through have no unincorporated areas or negligible unincorporated areas in their districts. The vote to "delay" the vote -- which was reasonable -- failed 7 to 5. That's how energetic the Casino lobbyists are to have this bill killed. With the delay measure defeated, the remaining members of the board had no choice but to support the restrictive measure.

Commissioner Forrest Claypool -- Mr. phony reform politician whose sole purpose in life was to move to higher office (fortunately that failed) -- denounced the delay vote as a vote to "kill" the Gainer measure.

If you wonder why County Board President Todd Stroger is able to impose a 1 percent sales tax on the county, you need only look at the pathetic leadership on the Cook County Board from some of the commissioners whose sole interest is their own political careers boosted by powerful lobbies.

The vote on the measure comes up Tuesday. But you can bet that this won't stop video gaming from coming to Cook County. It only means that the suburban communities are going to get the shaft, denied profits from the venture while Chicago -- where most of the leaders who pushed the bill are from, could still benefit from the gaming devices.

That's why Gainer rushed this through, so the public would not be able to discuss or debate this issues. And that's why she refused to respond to my email inquiry asking her about some of the known casino lobbyists who are behind the bill.

This morning (Friday Oct. 2, 2009) Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association will discuss why opposition to the video gaming bill is so important. Although we disagree on the significance of video gaming, I trust Andy Shaw more than I trust Gainer, AON and all the Illinois casino lobbyists out there to make a buck.

-- Ray Hanania

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