- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - The Illinois Gaming Board has issued licenses to run video-gambling machines to several people with ties to crime and illegal gambling, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Lawmakers agreed to legalize video-gambling machines six years ago, and supporters hoped the regulation would end decades of illegal video gambling and enable officials to weed out shady characters. But the newspaper’s investigation (https://trib.in/1Junl0f ) found that the board approved licenses for at least two men who had been accused of illegally operated video-gambling machines before they were legal, and at least one felon.

Gaming Board officials said they were satisfied at the time with their decision in granting the licenses. The board - which has issued nearly 7,000 licenses and denied fewer than 400 applicants - can deny licenses based on an applicant’s criminal history, past personal or business activities and associations, or involvement in illegal gambling.

One license was given to a Rockford restaurant owner who was convicted of a felony for stealing $146,000 from a South Carolina hotel. Gaming Board officials said they weren’t aware the man was a felon because national criminal databases didn’t reveal his criminal past, and that they might take action on his license at a meeting Wednesday.

Another license was granted to a man accused of working with his father to install illegal video-gambling machines in McHenry County bars, though he was later cleared of felony syndicated gambling charges in a plea deal. He now serves as president of a trade organization that has lobbied for video gambling.

A license also was given to a man who admitted in federal court that he installed illegal video-gambling machines in bars west of Chicago and then falsified tax documents so he and the owners could hide the revenue, according to the newspaper.

The findings raise “very serious questions” about the state’s vetting process for applicants, said Democratic Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood, who last year unsuccessfully tried to pass legislation that would have strengthened the Gaming Board’s ability to deny licenses.

“At a minimum, the General Assembly should be looking into how the Gaming Board is carrying out its duties and conducting its investigations and making determinations about licenses. Ultimately, this is an issue of public trust.”

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com

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