Illinois senators clash with gambling regulator over Chicago casino

April 11, 2013

(Flickr/Images of Money)
File: Poker table. A Chicago casino would be one of five new casinos in the state if the gambling expansion bill is approved.

After years of trying to expand gambling in Illinois, those involved in negotiations are still bickering over basic elements of a bill in Springfield.

The most recent dispute came over who would regulate a new casino if one were to be placed in Chicago. The Chicago casino would be one of five new casinos in the state if the gambling expansion bill is approved.

On Wednesday, Aaron Jaffe, the chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board, went before a state senate committee to testify about the bill before legislators.

Jaffe said there is a potential conflict of interest in the current legislation because the City of Chicago would be in charge of operating the casino, but also be in charge of appointing its own regulatory board to oversee the casino.

Several state senators, including Senate President John Cullerton, said they had language in the bill addressing that issue.

The debate included a few testy exchanges between Jaffe and one of the lead sponsors of gambling expansion, Sen. Terry Link.

Link accused Jaffe of complaining to the media about the gambling expansion plan, rather than addressing his concerns to Link directly.

Jaffe argued Link should have consulted the gaming board when drafting the bill.

“Well if you had done what you should do, we wouldn’t be having this meeting,” Jaffe said to Link during the hearing.

“If you did what you should’ve, you should’ve come and tell me when I introduced the first bill,” Link responded.

Jaffe also said if a gambling expansion bill passes and is signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn, his agency would need to hire several hundred more employees to properly regulate the industry. He said the gaming board has uncovered construction contracts with connections to organized crime at other casinos in the state.

The proposal to build a Chicago casino has been around for years. But legislation allowing that casino, four others in Illinois and slot machines at racetracks has been blocked by Gov. Quinn. In vetoing a bill last year, Quinn said he opposed the legislation because it included loopholes for mobsters and allowed casino operators to donate to political campaigns.

Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him at @tonyjarnold.