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Chicago Sun-Times

A historic increase in legal gambling in Illinois, signed into law on June 28, means the understaffed Illinois Gaming Board has an enormous and difficult job ahead.

It's way past time to fill the board's vacant positions, boost the staff and pay the chairperson, if not other members, more than the standard $300 per diem for attending meetings.

The board has an excellent track record of keeping unsavory types from getting their hands on Illinois casinos and video gambling machines. But organized crime and other unwanted sorts are always looking to sneak in the back door, and the stakes are expanding fast.

A fully staffed Gaming Board, which Illinois does not have right now, is a necessity.

If the wrong people get their hands on the new casinos and sports betting in Illinois, the cost to the state could be great. As was the case in Nevada for decades — and, many would say, to this day — sinister forces in the gambling world are adept at using their riches to influence local elections and buy legislators to gain and maintain control of the market.

Right now, the Gaming Board is woefully unprepared.

In the past, crime figures have used hidden ownership, money laundering and the running of companies that supply casinos to profit under the table. Former Gaming Board Chairman Aaron Jaffe said it can be difficult to detect crime influence on companies tied to casinos because a company can be owned by several other companies, which in turn can be owned by other companies.

The Gaming Board will have to be far more deliberative and thorough. That will require more top-quality people — paid, if that's what it takes — with every hand on deck as soon as possible.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

People have to wise up to the dangers of using their phones while they drive.

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A study by Volvo revealed that 71 percent of Americans admit they use their cellphones while driving, even though they know it is illegal, both to talk and, even more incredibly, text. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that — at any one time — more than 600,000 drivers across the country are using their cellphones.

The numbers may seem stunning, but they confirm what the average motorist sees every day. People routinely drive and talk and, as a consequence, get into accidents.

This is a real problem, the biggest portion of which is this: Most people appear to acknowledge the danger of the practice, while finding reasons to exclude themselves as contributors. At least they do until it's too late. Then the ugly reality hits home with a fury.

Illinois and other states need hard-hitting television and radio public service campaigns that drive home the threat created by mixing cellphones and driving. They need to show the social impact of engaging in this kind of unquestionably dangerous behavior.

Just what is so important that motorists can't wait to talk or text?

The (Carbondale) Southern Illinoisan

The Trump administration's proposal to cut about 3.1 million people from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, literally and figuratively is a punch in the gut to southern Illinois.

The proposed rule change by the U.S. Department of Agriculture would increase restrictions on who could automatically qualify for the food benefits. Currently, states allow some people who get benefits through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to automatically qualify. The USDA says the new rule would close "a loophole," according to reporting by the Associated Press.

With the federal deficit expected to top $900 billion in 2019, the projected $2 billion in savings realized by paring down the SNAP program looks both callous and insignificant, particularly in light of the tax cuts pushed by the Trump administration in 2017.

Curtailing SNAP benefits is a horrific idea for southern Illinois, for children and the rural poor. The savings to taxpayers is minimal and the cost, in terms of human hardship and suffering, is high.

It is an idea that needs to go away — quickly.

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