Illinois politicians decided to get rid of video poker machines that were unregulated and untaxed by the government. In turn, they legalized video gambling machines that were taxed and tightly controlled.
But this year, Springfield lawmakers quietly approved a one-sentence change to the law that may help usher in a new wave of slotlike machines -- even in Chicago and certain suburbs where citizens have voted "no" to legalized video gambling.
Already in several Chicago locations, the loosely monitored machines take cash, let users play slotlike games and cash out winnings. Machine owners say the games are legal because customers receive a coupon for online merchandise and can play for free.
But the Illinois Gaming Board issued a rare opinion this month declaring such machines illegal. Pointing to that opinion, a Chicago police spokesman said, "We have been actively looking into this issue."
Not surprisingly, a top crime watchdog group is warning that the machines will create exactly what lawmakers had pledged to eradicate: an underground gambling industry reaping millions of dollars with little government oversight.