The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Illinois Is Handing Out Video Gambling Licenses For Bars To Shady Criminals

By Jim Bochnowski in News on Jul 21, 2015 5:25PM

In the six years since Illinois legalized video gambling in bars, the Illinois Gaming Board has approved licenses for individuals with criminal pasts, in sharp contrast to its stated mission.

When the state first passed a bill authorizing bars to install video gambling machines, there were plenty of concerns about what kinds of characters would be going into this business. Despite the promise of tax revenue, it was enough to unnerve plenty of communities around the state, and many, including Chicago, to banned the machines outright. Vince Gumma, the president of the distributor American Vending Sales Inc., told Time Out in 2011 that the vetting process would be thorough: "Financial records on all the principals in the company, state police background check, the principals were all fingerprinted. Very extensive investigation."

That hasn't been the case. According to the Chicago Tribune, these investigations have been, at best, incomplete. The Illinois Gaming Board has approved licenses for plenty of individuals linked to criminal activities. For example, the Tribune found that Philip Webb, who was approved for a license, was previously charged with felony syndicated gambling for working to install illegal video gambling machines in McHenry County. Webb now "serves as president of a trade organization that has lobbied for video gambling."

Another man Vince Dublino copped to falsifying tax documents in front of a federal jury. In 2013, he receiving a handler's license from the Gaming Board.

To date, the Gaming Board has issued 7,000 licenses to operate video gambling machines in the state. Fewer than 400 applicants have been denied a license. To his credit, former Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe said, "Is it possible to drop the ball? Absolutely." He blamed those mistakes on poor funding: "I do think it's important that we were never fully funded to have all the people that we were supposed to have. And I imagine that with cutbacks now, it's going to be even worse."

This, of course, is the same group that we are supposed to trust to bring a casino to Chicago.