Cook County commissioners tightened the screws on its video poker ban Tuesday, sending a message to Springfield that the state's newly passed gaming law is a financial gamble that could hurt cities and counties across the state.
By closing loopholes in the Cook County’s ban, which affects only unincorporated areas, the county stands with Lake and DuPage counties as well as dozens of municipalities across the state that are exercising the right to opt out of allowing the poker machines. Chicago also has a ban in effect.
Commissioner Bridget Gainer, a Chicago Democrat, spearheaded the successful effort Tuesday and says the amended ordinance simply casts a wider net to ban all machines in the county. For months now, she has been concerned that the state’s promise of $300 million in video poker revenues for capital projects, from roads to sewers, is misleading. She believes that it could cost Cook County, with law enforcement now having to keep an eye on that, more than it’s getting in return. On top of that, she’s predicting foreclosures and bankruptcies are going to spike.
"The message is, look it, everyone supports a capital bill, everyone supports sending people back to work," Gainer said after Tuesday’s vote. "But at the end of the day, there are some programs that look like they’re making us money, but they’re costing us money."
The measure, which goes into effect immediately, passed 10-4 with commissioners Peter Silvestri and Larry Suffredin absent and Commissioner Timothy Schneider voting “present.” Schneider’s family-owned Rolling Knolls golf course, near Elgin, is among the 53 businesses in unincorporated Cook County that holds a liquor license and would be affected by the ban. To avoid a conflict of interest, he decided not to vote on the matter, his staff said.
Commissioner Joan Murphy, a South Suburban Democrat, voted against the ban saying it stands in the way of creating jobs.
"I was banking on the Olympics, I thought if we get this, this would be the shot in the arm our region needed. When that didn’t happen I thought we needed something where we could put people back to work. There’s not much on the horizon out there."