BOARD TESTING VIDEO GAMING SYSTEM
More than three years after it was approved by the Governor, video gaming is about to become available in hundreds of establishments across the state.
The Illinois Gaming Board said testing of the electronic monitoring system is now complete and the Board has gone “live” with video gaming at four locations for a test of the full system. Following those tests, there will be a layered expansion of the system statewide.
The implementation of video gaming represents the latest legalized form of gambling in Illinois.
Approximately 200 establishments have been approved by the Gaming Board and about 170 pages of pending applicants are still listed on the Gaming Board’s Web site. News stories have estimated that up to 75,000 video gaming machines will be installed statewide once video gaming is fully operational.
Video gaming was passed in May 2009 as a funding source for a long-delayed capital construction program for Illinois. Governor Pat Quinn signed House Bill 255 into law on July 13, 2009; however, implementation was delayed when the Gaming Board was forced to re-bid the contract for the central communications system, because of errors with the first bidding process.
Within the next several weeks, many Illinois residents older than 21 will be able to legally bet on video games, such as poker, blackjack and “line up” at bars, truck stops and veterans and fraternal organizations.
ILLINOIS LOSES FERTILIZER PLANT TO IOWA
The state’s financial problems have been a well-documented cause for concern, and Illinois’ mountain of debt and perpetual budget deficits make business leaders uneasy, as well.
Most recently, it was reported that despite aggressively pursuing a $1.4 billion fertilizer plant project, Illinois lost the project—and the hundreds of associated jobs—to Iowa.
According to the company’s CEO Nassef Sawiris, the state’s staggering overdue financial obligations undercut the tempting incentive package Illinois offered to Orascom Construction Industries. Media reports quote Sawiris as saying, “We were quite concerned, honestly with Illinois’ budget” and noting that though “The promises we got in Illinois were extremely attractive…[the offered incentives] “are not sustainable in our view given the balance sheet of the state of Illinois.”
Sawiris pointed to the pension reform issue, which left unresolved leaves current and potential employers wondering exactly how Illinois is going to address the state’s liabilities, estimated to be at least $130 billion. Sawiris joins other jobs providers who express concerns that as costs mount state leaders will once again look to tax increases as a way to reduce the budget deficit and pension liabilities.
CONSUMERS CAN COMMENT ON INSURANCE BENEFITS
Illinois consumers have been given a narrow window to offer their opinion on the benefits that should be included in basic health insurance plans offered under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The state’s Health Care Implementation Council has set a September 19 deadline for the public to offer comments. The composition of basic insurance plans will be critical if the federal Affordable Care Act is ultimately implemented.
A narrow selection of services will keep policy prices down and save consumers money, but may leave some patients without adequate coverage for some conditions. A broad range will assure that more conditions are covered, but would also drive up the cost of the insurance.
The standards will set only the baseline or “floor” of coverage. Insurers will be free to offer more comprehensive plans, and consumers would be able to spend more to secure broader coverage. But since the standards will set the minimum coverage, consumers will not have an opportunity to select less coverage than what the state dictates. Governor Quinn has already said he wants the plan to cover all the state’s current insurance mandates, which are extensive.
Comments can be submitted through the state’s Health Care Reform Implementation Web site. Available at the Web site is a link for submitting comments, as well as background information including a chart that lists what benefits are currently offered by major healthcare plans.
BRADY NAMED ‘CHAMPION OF FREE ENTEPRISE’
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce has named me a 2011-2012 “Champion of Free Enterprise” for my support of legislation designed to strengthen the state’s job climate.
Chamber President and CEO Doug Whitley says the ratings, which were released during the week, are designed to help the business community identify those legislators who have made special contributions in the defense of free enterprise and the furtherance of economic opportunities for Illinoisans.
“Legislators that received the highest ratings this year demonstrated a commitment to employer issues. They demonstrated a serious commitment to government reforms that are essential to reversing our state’s negative image for excessive political corruption and anti-business policies,” Whitley said.
Legislators earning Illinois Chamber ratings averaging 85 percent or better over the previous two General Assemblies qualify for the Champion of Free Enterprise award. Of the 177 members of the Illinois General Assembly, only 14 Senators and 18 Representatives qualified this year for the biennial award.
Issues used in the rating process include taxes, workers’ compensation and environmental policy.
BRADY NAMED ‘GUARDIAN OF SMALL BUSINESS’
The National Federation of Small Business/Illinois presented me with its “Guardian of Small Business” award for my legislative votes on behalf of the hard-working men and women who own and run the businesses that are the source of so many jobs in our state.
NFIB State Director Kim Clarke Maisch said small businesses in all regions of Illinois are affected by the laws, policies and regulations that come out of Springfield.
“NFIB has over 11,000 small business members in Illinois who count on lawmakers, the Governor and other elected officials to foster a competitive business environment through limited government, fewer regulations and market-driven public policies,” Maisch said.