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Hearings On State Construction Plan Revive Video Poker Debate

Video Poker machine. (CBS)

Video Poker machine. (CBS)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WBBM/CBS) – A lawsuit that has held up Illinois’ $31 billion road-and-building program is up for oral arguments this coming Tuesday at the Illinois Supreme Court.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Dave Dahl reports, much of the money for the Capital Construction program would come from legalized video poker machines.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Dave Dahl reports

Walt Stowe, who used to be with the FBI in Chicago, now consults with gaming companies.

“The Illinois Gaming Board is continuing to work on their licensing regulations, and they’ve been in business since 1992, with the Riverboat Gaming Act. They have a very effective regulatory scheme. It’s just a matter of making sure that kind of regulation is translated into the video gaming,” Stowe said.

Video poker, Stowe says, is in Illinois illegally anyway. But it’s not part of the dispute holding up the Capital Construction Program.

That dispute deals with the constitutionality of the program itself.

In January, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled unanimously that the Capital Projects violated the state constitution’s “single subject rule.” The legislation violated the rule that a bill appropriating funds must be confined to one subject, and that public funds must only be used for public purposes, the court ruled.

The Wirtz family, which is in the liquor distribution business and also owns the Chicago Blackhawks, filed the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the construction plan.

Separately in March, state Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) took steps to gut the controversial 2009 state law that legalized video gambling machines in bars and restaurants. As it is, Chicago forbids video gambling machines in the city, and 80 local governments have opted out entirely.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.