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Our view: Village gaming talks spark question of conflict of interest

As individual communities in the Chicago area have discussed whether to allow video gaming, it's become a heated issue in some towns. It was Lisle's turn to take on the topic when public officials gathered June 2 to discuss bringing video gaming to the village.

Among those in attendance at the Village Board meeting was Universal Gaming Group Vice President of Finance Bruce Povalish, who understandably spoke in favor of video gaming. What's a little bit less understandable was that the village decided to move forward with submitting a request for comment on the issue in the next edition of the monthly Neighbors of Lisle magazine – of which Povalish is the publisher.

Our first story on the meeting didn't mention the connection because we weren't aware of it at the time, but one of our online commenters was:

“Is The VP of the gambling company that is lobbying the Village fore [sic] approval of video gambling, Bruce Povalish, also the publisher of Neighbors Magazine? Who is paying for the ad in Neighbors Magazine - the company that wants the video gambling approved or the taxpayers?”

We scoured the internet, placed calls to the village and to Povalish and discovered that he does, indeed, hold both roles.

Neighbors of Lisle is a private entity, which the village pays about $10,000 annually to publish its information as news content.

Village Manager Jerry Sprecher said he was unaware of Povalish's affiliation with Universal Gaming prior to the June 2 meeting and said it was a coincidence and a non-issue.

He added that, in the village's eyes, Povalish's work with Neighbors of Lisle has no connection to his involvement in the gaming industry, which Sprecher said he doesn't see as a conflict of interest.

If gaming is adopted or the community expresses concern, Sprecher said, the village may address it at that time. He went on to say the village would never have a contract with Povalish in a gaming capacity, because such agreements would be between Universal Gaming and local business owners, and noted gambling licenses are granted by the state, not the village.

Povalish told us the magazine does not accept advertising from Universal Gaming.

He also said he saw no conflict of interest in his dual roles as publisher of a magazine that operates as a village contractor and a gambling professional speaking before a Village Board on an issue that could benefit him in that capacity. He only attended the June 2 meeting, he added, because sales staff from Universal Gaming were unavailable.

Here's the problem: When the village pays Povalish's publication to act as a supposedly neutral third party to collect residents' thoughts on video gaming, it can create the appearance of a conflict of interest.

We don't want to accuse anyone of any actual collusion or dishonesty here – no evidence of any such activity has come to light. But these cross-relationships and confusion as to who's responsible for what can create doubt among residents. "Who benefits?" is a question always on the minds of citizens of Illinois.

If the village and its residents are happy with the service they get from Neighbors of Lisle, then by all means the contract should continue. But we believe that as long as the issue of video gaming is a topic under consideration by the Village Board, it should be an out-of-bounds topic for the magazine due to Povalish's obvious interest in seeing video gaming approved.

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