John Gregory -- Illinois Radio Network

The legality of machines similar to video gambling, but aren’t subject to the same regulations, is being questioned in a new report.

The machines are called “sweepstakes machines,” and supposedly don’t fall under video gambling regulations because they don’t directly distribute cash.  Art Belik, executive vice president of the Chicago Crime Commission, disagrees, and says a dozen other states have shot down that argument in court.

“Every single one of the 12 held they were gambling machines,” Belik said.

The commission is sending out its report to sheriffs and state’s attorneys around Illinois, saying the machines amount to unlicensed video gambling, with none of the proceeds going to the state.  Belik says the lack of regulation also means the owners of the machines aren’t vetted.

“They could have any background they want,” Belik said.  “They could be a notable felon.  They could have been convicted a number of times for gambling.  They could be a known member of the organized crime syndicate.  No one would know that.”

The Illinois Gaming Board has said these machines fit the definition of a video gambling device.

Belik says the “loophole” that allows for these machines was put into place by an amendment to the original Video Gaming Act.  The sponsor of that change, State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), says it wasn’t his intention to allow video gambling in Illinois “without the Gaming Board’s oversight,” but says neither the Gaming Board nor the Crime Commission has reached out to express their concerns about the consequences of that amendment.

The commission’s report estimates there are about 100 of the “sweepstakes” machines already operating in the state.  While the argument over their legality means no one has been arrested for operating or playing the machines, Belik says two devices in Grundy County were recently seized by the Gaming Board.

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