Former Chicago top cop and current Chicago Crime Commission deputy director Jody Weis came out Wednesday in staunch opposition to the massive gambling expansion bill, a measure narrowly approved by the Illinois state legislature and still awaiting Governor Pat Quinn's signature.
Weis feels the bill -- Senate Bill 744 -- "is critically flawed due to a lack of regulatory safeguards and should be reconsidered," according to a statement released Wednesday by the watchdog group, which recently completed their analysis of the legislation. They argue that the vast expansion -- including five new casinos and nearly 40,000 new gaming positions statewide, 4,000 of which are located in Chicago -- should be accompanied with a corresponding increase in regulatory capabilities.
Instead, the state's regulating body -- the Illinois Gaming Board -- will lose oversight of both the Chicago casinos and downstate race tracks downstate, which could put those facilities in "untested and, most likely, politically connected hands," according to the commission's executive vice president Art Bilek.
The Illinois Gaming Board has, in recent months, largely agreed with the commission. In July, the board's chairman Aaron Jaffe described the measure as "409 pages of garbage" and indicated that the would be "flabbergasted" if the Democratic governor signed it into law.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has consistently defended the bill -- particularly with its plan for a casino in downtown Chicago as a job provider and revenue creator that will keep the city economically competitive. He previously said he was hopeful about Quinn signing the measure. Emanuel, of course, made the decision to pass over Weis and hire new Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy earlier this year.
Also fans of the bill likely are many of those who received political contributions -- totaling about $812,000 -- from the gambling industry since the beginning of 2010 and also voted for the bill. Senate President John Cullerton (D), another high-level supporter of the bill, as reported by the Tribune was among the biggest recipients of gaming cash in the state.
Representatives of south suburban Ford Heights, the proposed site of one of the state's new casinos, were incensed by the watchdog group's criticism of their village's ability to oversee such a facility, as one village spokesman called the report "a slap in the face," according to the Northwest Indiana Times.
Meanwhile, Quinn remains publicly undecided and has yet to even officially receive to bill, as the Chicago Tribune reports. Cullerton put a legislative hold on the measure in May reportedly with the hope that the governor, who has previously opposed such widespread gaming expansion, might be talked into it. He appears to still be meeting with folks throughout the state to see how they feel about the bill.
"I think there's some strong critics of the bill that are on our schedule so we want to make sure everybody gets their voice heard," Quinn said of the bill Wednesday to the Tribune.
CORRECTION: This article previously stated that Speaker Madigan received hefty campaign contributions from the gaming industry, then supported the legislation. Though Madigan did receive contributions from the industry, he recused himself from voting on the measure. We regret the error.