Former Chicago police Supt. Weis blasts new gaming bill

August 3, 2011

Kristen McQueary

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(WBEZ/Kristen McQuery)
Former Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis adds his voice to those opposing a gambling expansion bill.

In May when lawmakers approved five new casinos in Illinois, organized public opposition to the bill was virtually nonexistent.

But several groups, including the Chicago Crime Commission led by former Police Supt. Jody Weis, are starting to come forward.

"When you expand gambling by nearly 40,000 positions and you don’t add one person to ensure the regulatory and compliance issues are adhered to, we just think it’s not just a desperate measure, it’s disastrous," Weis said Wednesday during a commission press conference at the downtown Union League Club.

Weis said the bill doesn’t do enough to beef up the Illinois Gaming Board, which makes sure contracts for casino construction and operation are clear of organized crime. The legislature should have approved more money to handle any increase in gambling facilities.

Lawmakers did approve more money for the gaming board last year, but the board was waiting for an Illinois Supreme Court decision on video poker before embarking on a major hiring binge, according to board member Eugene Winkler. The court's decision upholding a video gaming law came last month.

St. Sabina Catholic Church Pastor Michael Pfleger, who joined Weis, said he opposed the bill on moral grounds.

"Thirty years ago I closed Bingo at St. Sabina Church because I could not stand seeing people and mothers and grandmothers walking out of Bingo Thursday nights crying because they thought that was going to be the thing to pay their mortgage or pay their rent or buy food for their family," he said.

Gov. Pat Quinn said he will take the group’s concerns into consideration. The bill has not yet reached his desk due to a parliamentary maneuver by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago).