By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
CHICAGO — The new chairman of the Illinois Gaming Board said Thursday he has no illusions about how tough of a job lies ahead.
“We all know that those tasks are substantial. In ordinary times our work would be challenging, but these are not ordinary times,” Charles Schmadeke said as he opened his first meeting as head of the state’s gambling regulatory agency.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed the largest expansion of legal gambling in state history. It authorized the construction of up to six new casinos in the state, including one in Chicago, as well as legalized sports betting.
Revenue from those activities is earmarked for a massive, $45 billion capital improvements program, branded as “Rebuild Illinois.”
But Schmadeke said it will be successful only if the new, expanded gambling industry in Illinois has public trust and confidence.
“Maintaining that confidence must undergird everything we do,” Schmadeke said. “Achieving and preserving the integrity of the gaming industry in Illinois will be at the heart of my tenure on this board, and based upon what I know I believe that also applies to the board as a whole and to the staff. We will undertake our responsibility as effectively and as efficiently as possible, but we will not compromise on issues of integrity.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker named Schmadeke to head the gaming board July 29. He was partner-in-charge at the Springfield office of the law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP. Before joining that firm in 2003, he held a number of positions in state government, including general counsel to the Illinois state comptroller and chief of the General Law Bureau in the Illinois attorney general’s office.
Pritzker also named Anthony Garcia, an attorney for Boeing Co., to serve as a member of the board.
The Gaming Board is a five-member body appointed by the governor, subject to Senate confirmation. It has general authority to implement the state’s gaming laws, including the granting and revocation of gaming licenses, approving the sale or transfer of gaming establishments, and enacting regulations that govern the industry.
In his remarks to the board, Schmadeke said the expansion of legal gambling is intended to serve three purposes — “assisting economic development, promoting Illinois tourism and increasing state and local government revenue.”
“The governor and General Assembly have recognized, however, that these goals only can be achieved if the public has confidence and trust in the credibility and integrity of the gaming operations in this state,” he said.