Former Illinois State Representative Luis Arroyo pleaded guilty in his federal bribery case involving legalizing sweepstakes machines, and now he’s asking for probation.
Will Arroyo escape jail time?
Sweepstakes legal gray area
The scheme started with an unlawful lobbying effort involving sweepstakes machines. Sweepstakes machines exist in a murky legal area, as they are not considered gambling.
Players insert money in the machine in exchange for coupons redeemable online. These coupons give players access to electronic gambling games available through the internet.
Sweepstakes machines, like sweepstakes casinos, do not technically cost money to play. In fact, sweepstakes are legal in jurisdictions with bans on video poker and other gaming machines.
However, critics of the unregulated machines claim they purposely circumvent the law. The Illinois Gaming Board and the state legislature continue their push to regulate these machines.
A blatant cash grab
Arroyo’s involvement in the sweepstakes scandal started in the fall of 2018. Fearing a crackdown, Collage LLC head James Weiss began direct payments to Arroyo.
These payments were for favorable sweepstakes machine legislation.
Weiss’ cash payments were funneled through Arroyo’s consulting firm, Sparticus 3 LLC. Arroyo failed to report those payments to state regulators, and prosecutors claim they exceeded $7,500.
After receiving the payments, Arroyo spoke in favor of the sweepstakes legalization bill during Illinois House of Representatives sessions. He also met with lawmakers and executive branch officials.
Large scale corruption
Weiss and Arroyo’s sweepstakes legalization scheme grew in scope. In 2019, the duo hatched a plot to bribe a state senator.
During the trial, Assistant US Attorney James Durkin revealed that Weiss and Arroyo offered a state senator $2,500 a month for sweepstakes legalization support.
State Senator Terry Link attended a dinner meeting with Weiss and Arroyo in 2019. During the dinner, they discussed sweepstakes legalization, and Arroyo offered Sen. Link a monthly stipend to support a soon-to-be-introduced sweepstakes legalization bill.
Senator Link wears a wire
Three weeks after that Highland Park dinner meeting, Arroyo delivered Link’s first $2,500 payment.
What Arroyo didn’t know, however, was that Link wore an FBI listening device.
In addition to that damning evidence, authorities also discovered an email from Weiss to Link. This email thanked Link for his help and assistance in the ongoing push for sweepstakes legalization.
Weiss and Arroyo also drew up a contract for Sen. Link involving Collage LLC. The agreement required the senator’s obfuscation of the $2,500 payments.
Arroyo’s case for probation
Arroyo’s conviction carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine. His lawyers, however, say that sending Arroyo to prison for any length of time to deter political corruption is akin to “draining Lake Michigan with a spoon.”
They also argue that Arroyo is no longer in politics and that he has learned his lesson.
Arroyo’s age is also a factor. Arroyo’s lawyers believe an extended prison sentence at 67 means certain death. His wife also suffers from a chronic illness, and his lawyers argue a prison sentence of any length will also shorten her life.
While Arroyo accepted bribes and attempted to bribe an Illinois State Senator, the attempt yielded little fruit.
Sweepstakes legalization never took off. Because of this, Arroyo’s lawyers believe his illegal activity isn’t worth a prison sentence.