Ungaretti & Harris has been expanding its gaming practice, and Michael A. Ficaro, a litigation partner recently named chair of that practice.
Illinois lawmakers passed legislation in July legalizing a video lottery in the state. This new gaming industry will distribute up to 45,000 electronic devices in bars, restaurants, and fraternal and charitable locations. That means 9,000 new licensees, plus manufacturers, distributors, and terminal operators who will all need legal counsel, according to the firm.
The gaming board is creating regulations for its implementation, Ficaro said. It is a process of looking at hiring personnel to support the application and investigation of applicants for licensing. The potential tax revenue is $500,000 million a year, he said, but the regulation challenges can be daunting.
Lawyers in the Ungaretti & Harris gaming practice will work with its sports and entertainment and government groups to meet the needs of this expanding industry.
Ficaro, a member of the International Masters of Gaming Law, said the practice handles the representation of applicants of licenses for casinos, and video gaming. It also deals with disputes between shareholders of gaming licenses, representation of suppliers and manufacturers before the gaming board, and in disciplinary hearings.
“The overall gaming practice is about representing clients who are trying to do business in Illinois and need to interact with the gaming board,” Ficaro said. “I’ve been one of the most active gaming lawyers since riverboat gaming began in the ’90s. I represented three of the 10 applicants who at one time owned casino licensing.”
This practice, he said, is “working with the government and clients in trying to establish a relationship between the client and the regulator. At times, if there are problems it’s about trying to solve those problems.”