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Editorial: Gaming Board must have authority over Chicago casino

Gov. PQuinn

Gov. Pat Quinn

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Updated: June 23, 2013 6:27AM

Chicago would become the only city in the nation to own a casino under legislation now working its way through Springfield.

That’s why it must be absolutely clear in the bill that the Illinois Gaming Board has just as much authority to regulate Chicago’s casino as it does those in private hands.

The trap is always in the cards you don’t see. Gov. Pat Quinn worries that the bill, which has passed in the Senate, does not sufficiently spell out that the Gaming Board has ultimate authority over a newly formed Chicago Casino Development Authority. Conflicting language can lead to unexpected loopholes. We don’t need that. Quinn has said that language must be cleared up before he will sign the bill. It should be clear.

On Tuesday, the debate among Quinn and others unfortunately degenerated into an unhelpful discussion about whether Chicago or Springfield has a richer history of corruption.

But no one is denying that the Illinois Gaming Board has built up a reputation over two decades of keeping criminal influences at bay. Its regulatory authority must not be undermined. For example, the board should have the power to oversee the bidding process for the operator of the Chicago casino, to sign off on who profits from the selection of its location, and to approve its master plan.

Also, there should be no potential conflict with a newly created inspector general for casinos, a provision inserted into the bill by Senate Democrats. The state already has an inspector general with oversight over the Illinois Gaming Board, and a new casino IG would not only create another level of bureaucracy but also might erode the Gaming Board’s authority.

There’s no guarantee a casino inspector general would be particularly effective. It’s not as if Mayor Rahm Emanuel has had an especially nurturing attitude toward the inspector generals the city has now.

On Wednesday, Quinn said negotiations are continuing with the House, although he said he won’t sign any bill until pension reform is completed. For their part, Emanuel’s forces say they also support a fully empowered Gaming Board. Good.

The city needs the revenues a casino would produce. But not at the price of dealing out the Gaming Board.

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