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Gaming board to lawmakers: Why reject video gambling reforms?

Updated: January 15, 2014 5:17PM

The Illinois Gaming Board is demanding answers about why a panel of lawmakers this week rejected a series of proposed video gambling reforms, including blacklisting some felons.

The gaming board pressed for answers Wednesday, a day after the Joint Committee of Administrative Rules — a senate and house panel that reviews administrative rules proposed by state agencies — rejected the reform package.

The Joint Committee, which is composed of 12 legislators, did not provide the gaming board a reason for rejecting the proposal, state gaming officials said.

The gaming board passed the reforms in November and then forwarded the package to the Joint Committee.

The primary objective of the blacklist and other reforms was to “ensure that individuals involved . . . were vetted by the gaming board and licensed by the gaming board,” said gaming board member Michael Holewinski during a board meeting Wednesday in the Loop.

State Rep. David Leitch (R- Peoria), a Joint Committee member, called the proposed exclusion list “severely flawed,” adding that the gaming board does not have the authority to put such a list into place.

State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), another Joint Committee member, told the Sun-Times the measure failed because it was filed as a fast-tracked emergency measure.

“We don’t like emergency rules in the first place,” Lang said, noting the measure failed by an 11-0 vote, with a 12th committee member absent. “We aren’t about to approve emergency rules that are not emergencies.”

Regularly filed proposals not only require more time for consideration than emergency rules, but they also invite public comment, which benefits the agency and the Joint Committee before voting, according to Lang.

The gaming board proposed blacklisting those convicted of a felony or a crime involving gaming, or earned a notorious reputation that could affect trust in gaming. Those who land on the blacklist could be prevented from obtaining a video gaming license or having an interest in, ownership or management of a video-gaming operation, under the board’s proposal; those who land on the blacklist could appeal their case, however.

Lang added that most of the Joint Committee felt the rule was too broad, offering the example that if a waitress, who may be blacklisted, worked at a video-gaming restaurant, either she would lose her job or the restaurant would lose video-gaming.

Lang shares the gaming board’s concern that those rejected from obtaining a gaming license are making money from the industry. However, the gaming board’s reform package’s overbroad nature and emergency rule dissuaded Lang from voting to approve the proposal.

“If they had not been so overzealous and just gave us a rule that said if you have been rejected for a license you can’t do any contracting, I would have voted for them,” he said.

Gene O’Shea, the media relations contact for the gaming board, said that the board chose emergency rule because regular rules take months. He said that they have had emergency rules passed without a problem, and they thought their reform should be enacted quickly.

The board intends to meet with the joint committee to discuss any technical concerns. Aaron Jaffe, a retired circuit court judge who chairs the gaming board, also instructed staff to prepare legislation that would summarize the contents of the rule for an introduction to the general assembly if the gaming board and joint committee cannot reach agreement.

“We believe that the adopted rules were and are within our rule-making authority,” said Holewinski. “ [But the actions of the joint committee result in a] substantial gap in our regulation of the video gambling industry.”

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